Sunday, May 25, 2008

Buying Congress, corrupting democracy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, folks, America is a plutocracy. Here's Glenn Greenwald on "how telecoms are attempting to buy amnesty from Congress":

One of the benefits from the protracted battle over telecom amnesty is that it is a perfect microcosm for how our government institutions work. And a casual review of the available evidence regarding how telecom amnesty is being pursued demonstrates what absurd, irrelevant distractions are the pro-amnesty justifications offered by the pundit class and the Bush administration.

Just in the first three months of 2008, recent lobbyist disclosure statements reveal that AT&T spent $5.2 million in lobbyist fees (putting it well ahead of its 2007 pace, when it spent just over $17 million). In the first quarter of 2008, Verizon spent $4.8 million on lobbyist fees, while Comcast spent $2.6 million. So in the first three months of this year, those three telecoms -- which would be among the biggest beneficiaries of telecom amnesty (right after the White House) -- spent a combined total of almost $13 million on lobbyists. They're on pace to spend more than $50 million on lobbying this year -- just those three companies.

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Then there are the specific lobbying arrangements these telecoms have regarding FISA. AT&T, for instance, paid $120,000 in the first three months of 2008 to the lobbying firm of BSKH & Associates -- the firm of which Charlie Black, top campaign adviser to John McCain, is a founding partner. According to BSKH's lobbyist disclosure form (.pdf), Charlie Black himself, at the same time he was advising McCain, was one of the individuals paid by AT&T to lobby Congress on FISA.

*****

Last year, AT&T paid $400,000 to Black's firm. Black was taking money from AT&T to lobby on FISA and simultaneously advising McCain. McCain, needless to say, voted in favor of granting amnesty to AT&T and the other telecoms at exactly the time that his close adviser, Black, was taking money from AT&T to influence Congress on its behalf. And, of course, AT&T and Verizon are among McCain's top donors.

Yes, that's straight-talkin' John McCain, still with the media-driven reputation for being Mr. Clean. (He is, of course, nothing of the sort.)

As always with Glenn's posts, make sure to read the whole thing. Every American ought to know what is being done to their so-called democracy.

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