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:
1. John McCain $176,800
2. Hillary Clinton $106,300
3. Barack Obama $87,236
2. Obama, Barack (D-IL) $43,483
3. Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) $43,400
5. McCain, John (R-AZ) $23,700
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.
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.