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Telecom Immunity and Telecom Money

June 24, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

>"On March 14 of this year the House passed an amendment that rejected retroactive immunity for phone carriers who helped the National Security Agency carry out the illegal wiretapping program without proper warrants. Ninety-four House Democrats voted in favor of this measure – rejecting immunity – on March 14, then ‘changed’ to vote in favor of the June 20 House billapproving immunity.
>“Why did these ninety-four House members have a change of heart?” asked Daniel Newman, executive director of, “Their constituents deserve answers.”

MAPLight, which connects vote patterns with campaign contributions, sees evidence that it’s linked to telecom money. Their report shows that the 94 Democrats who changed their vote in the three months from opposing telecom immunity to supporting it received almost twice as much in contributions from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint.

Now, the votes were on two different bills, so this is not proof of vote buying and Representatives can deny the influence of money on their voting decision. But as Lawrence Lessig of Change Congress said this morning at the Personal Democracy Forum, when constituents see patterns like this, how coan they believe anything other than that their votes were bought. For the purpose of strengthening democracy, the appearance of corruption is just about as important as corruption itself.

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