DATA RELEASE: Telecom Industry Gave 50% More To Members of the House Who Voted No to Amend House FISA Bill

Verizon, AT&T and Sprint PAC's gave, on average, $10,660 to House Members Who Voted No

BERKELEY, CA, March 21, 2008 - MAPLight.org's research department reveals that the telecom industry gave, on average, $10,660 to members of the House of Representatives who voted "no" as opposed to $7,085 to those who voted "yes" on the House amendment (to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3773), to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).

The amendment, which passed on March 14, rejects retroactive immunity for phone carriers who helped the National Security Agency carryout their wiretapping program without proper warrants. It does, however, give federal courts special authority to decide whether lawsuits against the phone companies should proceed. According to the Washington Post, "about 40 lawsuits have accused AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and Sprint Nextel Corp. of violating the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans swept up in the electronic surveillance of phone calls and email. Damages could total in the billions of dollars."

"Like many issues in Congress, money closely correlates with votes," said Daniel Newman, Executive Director of MAPLight.org. "This finding raises the question... What is the link between the thousands of dollars in Telecom PAC contributions and members of Congress who voted to give Telecom companies immunity?"

213 members of the House voted Yes (all Democrats), 197 voted No (185 Republicans and 12 Democrats), 20 Not Voting (13 Republicans and 7 Democrats) and 1 present (Democrat). The amendment imposes tougher restrictions on National Security Agency eavesdropping than the Senate version, and states that court approval would be required for wiretapping procedures to take place prior to action. It also enhances oversight over the Administration's surveillance activities. For more on HR 3773 visit, Whip Pack.

"Our findings are based on the aggregation of contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics and voting data from THOMAS via GovTrack.us," said Sean Tanner, MAPLight.org's Research Manager. "We looked at PAC donations associated with three major players in the Telcom industry--Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint--from January 2005 through September 2007 to determine our results."

MAPLight.org reveals how contributions correlate with legislation so that citizens have key information needed to draw their own conclusions about how campaign contributions affect policy. Campaign contributions are only one factor affecting legislator behavior. The correlations we highlight between industry and union giving and legislative outcomes do not show that one caused the other, and we do not make this claim. We do make the claim, however, that campaign contributions bias our legislative system. Simply put, candidates who take positions contrary to industry interests are unlikely to receive industry funds and thus have fewer resources for their election campaigns than those whose votes favor industry interests.

Who We Are:

MAPLight.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides unprecedented government transparency, shining a light on our broken system of money-dominated politics. We track all campaign contributions given to members of Congress, and how every member of Congress votes on every bill, revealing connections between money and politics never before possible to see. Our concise graphs show correlations between money and votes, and timelines of contributions and votes, showing specifics about when legislators received large donations before and after a vote.

Our Research Data:

MAPLight.org’s research department uses Web 2.0 data mashup technology to combine three data sets: campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org), special interest support and opposition for each bill in Congress (MAPLight.org research team), and legislative voting records and bill information (THOMAS/GovTrack.us).

About MAPLight.org:

MAPLight.org is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Berkeley, California. Its search engine at MAPLight.org illuminates the connection between Money And Politics (MAP) via an unprecedented database of campaign contributions and legislative outcomes. Data sources include:  GovTrack.us; Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org); Federal Election Commission (FEC); and National Institute on Money in State Politics. Support and opposition data is obtained through testimony at public hearings, proprietary news databases and public statements on the Web sites of trade associations and other groups. To learn more visit MAPLight.org. If our work has been helpful to you, please consider supporting us.

Editors Note:

Interviews with Daniel Newman are available.

Media Contact

Pamela Behrsin
Communications
Office: (510) 868-0894
pamela@maplight.org