Telecom’s Got Some Dollars in the Fight


I’ve been following the issue of whether the telecommunications companies will get their desired immunity in the update to the foreign surveillance law. Last week, Bush said he would not sign any bill that did not provide retroactive immunity for them.

The House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have so far resisted Bush’s efforts to protect the telecom companies and voted down an amendment that would add telecom amnesty to the bill. The ACLU and other civil libertarian and watchdog groups have said they expect telecom companies to keep personal information private, and if they break the law, be held accountable.

But it looks like the Senate may cave to the telecoms. Christy Hardin Smith at FireDogLake and Glenn Greenwald of Salon called such a move by the Senate illogical, unfathomable and beyond justification. They asked if the telecom companies didn’t do anything wrong, why should they get retroactive immunity? And if they did do something wrong, why would the Senate hand the corporations retroactive immunity before investigating?

In Washington, when industries receive special treatment it’s usually not difficult to connect the dots. The old adage applies, "Follow the money." According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the telecom industry has spent $24 million lobbying Congress so far this year, and almost $52 million lobbying in 2006. In the two-year 2006 cycle, the latest cycle on record, the industry gave over $6.4 million dollars in political contributions to the House and Senate.

Over the weekend, Sen. Richard Durban (D-Ill.) in an interview with Al Hunt spoke out against granting immunity to the corporations.He's gotten just 3.4 percent of his campaign dollars from the telecom and electronic industry, giving him the independence to speak his mind and protect the Constitution.