Is There a Conflict Here?


One of the key Democrats involved in the high-stakes legislative battle that could give phone companies much greater control of access to the Internet is catching flak over his ties to one of the major players seeking passage of the bill.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), a co-sponsor of the legislation sought by the phone companies, is the founder of a Chicago-based community center that received a $1 million grant from SBC/AT&T between 2001 and 2004. (SBC acquired AT&T in 2005 and took its name.) Rush sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee panel that will be considering the bill on Wednesday.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, SBC is Rush’s fourth-biggest campaign contributor since he was first elected to Congress in 1992, with over $39,000 in contributions to his campaigns. AT&T is listed as his second-top donor in the current election cycle, with $7,500.

AT&T has long been the top contributor in the telecommunications industry, with more than $17 million in contributions since the 1990 election cycle, according to CRP.

But direct contributions are only one way of winning friends and influencing politicians. Giving to their favorite charities is another, and the million-dollar grant from SBC’s charitable foundation to the “Bobby L. Rush Center for Community Technology” is just the latest reminder.