In June of 2008, 105 Democrats joined 188 Republicans in voting to pass the FISA Amendments Act. The new law doesn’t just negate your right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment; it also grants retroactive legal immunity to corporations like AT&T that violated the law by giving the government your private information without a court order or your permission.
We already know that AT&T shoveled loads of money to the Democratic Party for its 2008 convention while the Democratic Party leadership pushed the FISA Amendments Act toward passage. But AT&T didn’t stop there: using its federal PAC, it also funneled large amounts of money — over $300,000 in June alone — to individual members of Congress in the period of the vote on FISA passage.
At first glance, the FEC campaign contribution data for June 2008 seems to show no strong relationship between monetary contributions by AT&T and voting patterns. Let’s consider the House of Representatives. Representatives voting FOR the FISA Amendments in the month of June 2008 received $430.57 on average in PAC contributions from AT&T in that same month. That’s something. But representatives voting AGAINST the FISA received $410.85 on average in PAC contributions from AT&T. Not much of a difference to hang one’s hat on, is there?
If one stopped there, one might conclude that AT&T contributions aren’t associated with voting results. But there’s more going on here. Check this out: only 7% of Republican members of the House received a campaign contribution from the AT&T PAC in June… while only 1 Republican voted against the FISA Amendments Act. Why didn’t AT&T funnel money to the House Republicans? They don’t have to. The Republicans have been solid corporate kissups for years and years. They were already in the bag for AT&T and the FISA Amendments Act.
No, the ones that AT&T had to bag were the Democrats. AT&T had to peel off enough Democrats from their traditional pro-liberty stance to secure a win. And so AT&T targeted the Democrats with their campaign contributions. Within the Democrats in the House of Representatives, are campaign contributions from AT&T associated with pro-FISA votes? You tell me. Democrats voting AGAINST the FISA Amendments in the month of June 2008 received $414.06 on average in PAC contributions from AT&T in that same month. Democrats voting FOR the FISA received $947.62 on average in PAC contributions from AT&T. That’s a $532 difference.
Don’t just view the dollar amounts in isolation — remember, these figures are only looking at the AT&T federal PAC, and not other contributions bundled together from those people working in the AT&T corporate leadership, and also neglecting contributions from trade associations, and from other telecommunications corporations, and from lobbyists associated with the corporations, and the big sponsorship check AT&T gave the Democratic Party leadership for its upcoming national convention. No, what’s important to note is the association of money flows with votes — and for Democrats, the association is undeniably there.