14 Nov 2014

Politicians overseeing Internet received over $8 million from major cable companies in 2014

Minutes after President Obama unveiled his plan for net neutrality yesterday, Republicans leaders like Ted Cruz came out swinging. You can chalk up the backlash to more than just partisan spite; Cruz has taken his share of campaign money from telecom giants. And he's far from the exception.
Democrats and Republicans alike received over $8 million from the four major telecom companies and their trade group in the 2014 election alone. For some context, the top five pharmaceutical groups spent only half as much in the same cycle.
It's no big surprise that corporations throw their monetary weight around. But it is especially worrying when the FCC is already cozy with the very industry it's supposed to regulate. Who, in turn, is supposed to make sure the FCC does its job? Why, that's your elected officials of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet and the HouseSubcommittee on Communications and Technology—almost all of whom have received campaign funds from cable giants.
We've collected all the campaign contributions to these politicians from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, AT&T, and their trade group the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA). These are megacorporations with many political interests—including piracy, taxes, privacy, and spectrum allocation to name just a few—so their donations reach a wider pool than just these subcommittee members. But it's hard not to notice patterns, such as the trade group's near-consistent contribution of $10,000 to almost every Republican member of the House subcommittee.
Here is exactly how much telecoms gave to the election and reelection campaigns of the politicians tasked with overseeing the FCC.
The lone senator on the subcommittee who has not taken money from the telecom industry is Maria Cantwell of Washington. It's probably no coincidence that back in 2011, she introduced a bill to strengthen net neutrality rules.
On the other hand, the money trail is always so clear either. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, another vocal supporter of net neutrality, received the most generous contribution from Comcast in the 2014 elections. Yesterday, he called Obama's plan a " game changer." It may be that Comcast's donations were related to other political issues, or it may simply be money can only buy you so much influence with a politician who's made up his mind.


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