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Campaign Cash Calculus

February 28, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

What’s a lawmaker got to do around Capitol Hill to get some campaign cash? Roll Call (subscription required) is quoting some anonymous Republican aides who are upset at not getting more of a kickback from the telecom companies their party has been fighting to protect as part of the FISA bill.

>Like most corporate interests with a heavy stake in Congressional action, the major phone companies significantly boosted their contributions to Democrats last year after the party surged back into the majority.
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>But giving by that sector is getting special attention from Republicans now that the debate over the surveillance program is front and center — and focused on the phone companies’ role in aiding the Bush administration after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. …
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>House Republicans have sought to capitalize on the immunity issue by painting Democrats as more interested in enriching their trial lawyer supporters than protecting national security.
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>In a reflection of the sensitivity of the subject matter, and an apparent recognition that they would undermine their own messaging by appearing to be motivated by fundraising concerns, Republicans on and off Capitol Hill declined to comment on the record.
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>But several confirmed the griping in GOP leadership ranks over the phone companies’ shifting donations.
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>"When those numbers are made evident, it causes some angst," one Republican lobbyist said. “Leadership are told by staff, who look through this. There’s communication back and forth” between GOP leadership and downtown.
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>"There’s no question that from time to time staff, and maybe some Members, say to fellow travelers: ‘Are you giving us some air cover? Are you helping us help you?’"

Paul Blumenthal at the Sunlight Foundation takes a guess at the telecom company perspective involved here. “Republicans are going to vote to support their interests no matter what, while Democrats are more likely to oppose them,” he says. “Some of these Democrats could be swayed with cash in their coffers. So the money obviously goes to the members you need to influece, i.e., the Democrats.”

Indeed, as Wired reported in October, there is reason to believe that campaign contributions from telecoms contributed to Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller (WV) taking on the role as the leading Democrat pushing for legal immunity for the companies. These graphs from the story sum it up pretty well:

And, yes, Rockefeller is the top recipient of telecom money in Congress.

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