FISA Promises & Big Telecom Money

Last December Chris Dodd, alone among presidential contenders, led a fight to stop retroactive immunity for big telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon from becoming law. Dodd came off the campaign trail to stand in the well of the Senate for almost eleven hours, arguing against retroactive immunity and for accountability for the violations of Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. Dodd was prepared to filibuster, but his tactics succeeded in stopping the FISA legislation from proceeding without going that step. However, he was alone when he should not have been.

Other Democratic senators made pledges to be there beside Dodd in the event he had to filibuster bad FISA legislation. Here’s what Barack Obama’s campaign had said about his willingness to support a filibuster:

To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. [TPM: Election Central, 10/24/07]

And here is what Hillary Clinton said herself:

As matters stand now, I could not support it and I would support a filibuster absent additional information coming forward that would convince me differently. [TPM: Election Central, 10/23/07]

Senator John McCain has not said that he will support a filibuster to stop retroactive immunity.

Keep in mind that when Chris Dodd took to the Senate floor in December, the assumption was that a filibuster was about to take place and it did not only because other procedural measures were deployed that forced Harry Reid to pull the bill.

So, if Clinton and Obama would not hold themselves by their word, how are they reaching this decision? According to Center for Responsive Politics, Senators McCain, Clinton and Obama are by far the top three recipients of telecom industry cash in the 2008 cycle, including tens of thousands of dollars each from AT&T and Verizon. Here’s the breakdown:

Telephone Utilities: Top 20 Recipients 2008 Cycle:

1. John McCain $176,800

2. Hillary Clinton $106,300

3. Barack Obama $87,236

AT&T:
2. Obama, Barack (D-IL) $43,483

3. Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) $43,400

5. McCain, John (R-AZ) $23,700

Verizon:
1. Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) $24,850

2. Obama, Barack (D-IL) $22,753

5. McCain, John (R-AZ) $19,350

Senators Clinton, McCain, and Obama are all seeking the presidency and have spoke about their desire to change how Washington works. The opportunity to do that now, in 2008, is right in front of them — leave the campaign trail and do what the big telecom companies are hoping they won’t: stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Contact Clinton, McCain and Obama through this Credo action alert: Call on them to get back to DC and protect our civil liberties.

Cross posted at CREDO Blog

Disclosure: I have joined the CREDO Mobile team to stop the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping program and hold the telecom companies accountable for their lawbreaking.

3 thoughts on “FISA Promises & Big Telecom Money

  1. Matt,

    It seems to me that if the Democratic leadership had any real courage, they would refuse to act on Bush’s “Economic Stimulus” plan until retroactive immunity and other problems are out of the FISA renewal and all Congressional subpoenas have been satisfied. Is that too much to ask?

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  2. Jim, if you’re there, my thought today was the exact opposite! I figured Congress gave up immunity for a promise from Bush to be cooperative on stimulus so the Party can’t be accused of stalling economic recovery. Ugh.

    In any event, this Congress has been terrible at keeping Bush from getting what he wants.

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  3. I think you both have far greater faith in the ability of our leaders in Congress to negotiate.

    Generally the way the process works when negotiating on multiple issues is that in exchange for giving President Bush exactly what he wants, the Democrats will give President Bush exactly what he wants.

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