All About The Money: Reps Who Voted For NSA Surveillance Received 2X As Much Money From Defense Industry

from the but-of-course dept

For many years now, we’ve pointed out that so much of what drives the fear-mongering about the “intelligence-industrial complex” is pretty simple: money. As in lots and lots of money. All of these intelligence programs require both staffing and systems, and almost all of that goes to a group of well-known big companies who (I’m sure, coincidentally…) also happen to be some of the biggest campaign funders for so many politicians. The folks at MapLight decided to take a look around and noticed that those who voted to keep the NSA’s ability to scoop up data on every American’s phone call (i.e., rejecting the Amash amendment) had received more than twice as much money from defense contractors as the reps who voted to defund the program:

  • Representatives voting to continue the NSA’s dragnet surveillance programs received on average 122 percent more money ($41,635) from defense contractors and other defense industry interests than did representatives who voted to end the programs (18,765).
  • Representative Justin Amash, R-Mich., the chief sponsor of the amendment, has received $1,400 from defense contractors and other defense industry interests.
  • Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., has received $526,600 from defense contractors and other defense industry interests, more than any other member of the House. He voted to continue the programs.

In fact, as some have pointed out, of the top 10 recipients of defense conctractor money, only one — Rep. Jim Moran — voted for the Amash amendment. In fact, if you look at the top 27 recipients (the first page of the document embedded below), you see a grand total of four votes to kill the amendment, with the rest voting to continue scooping up data on all Americans. Meanwhile, on the flip side, there are only 26 members of the House who received no money from defense contractors (they really spread it around), and 16 of them voted to end the dragnet surveillance.

Of course, it’s not true that purely money “buys” votes — in some cases it’s the other way around, in which votes result in contributions. But, either way, it’s no less questionable in terms of how Congress sets its priorities. And, just from the standpoint of how it looks to the American public (and to those around the globe), it’s really, really bad. On top of all of this, I’d imagine that most of those at the top of this list have little fear of being voted out of office, because even if they do they’ll get a cushy “job” from these private companies.

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Comments on “All About The Money: Reps Who Voted For NSA Surveillance Received 2X As Much Money From Defense Industry”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Maybe representatives that receive money from a determined sector should be barred from voting and introducing bills that may directly or indirectly benefit that industry? Or companies should be forbidden from contributing to more than X% of the representatives (ie: 30% seems a good value) and it would include sister companies, affiliates and subsidiaries?

I’m throwing ideas but is there a way to help preventing such auctioning of laws?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are prohibitions in Brazil for a representative to get jobs depending on who is offering and what said representative has been engaged with during their mandate. This doesn’t stop their relatives from benefiting from company donations though. Electoral campaigns are only allowed to receive money from the Government too. But it hasn’t stopped what we call “Caixa 2” which is basically illegal funding from companies. And said companies can still donate to political parties (as they actively do). We are living huge real estate speculation currently partly because the biggest building companies have donated tons of money to they main parties.

So yes, while there may be solutions they seem to fall under the weight of the corruption.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is a way to limit the effects of money on legislation.

1. Place strict limits on the length of time for a campaign for office – say like like 6 months. There is only so much a candidate can spend during a certain period of time and lesser funded candidates cannot compete over the long campaign trail due to the cost over time.

2. Make it such that excess money received by candidates not spent during the campaign time automatically goes to relieving the national debt. The candidates do not get to keep the excess money. Mandatory audits of all money received and expenditures would also need to be in place to enforce these rules.

The revolving door would still exist, however with the ability for ethical candidates with less funding to compete, the effects of this would also be limited.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Point 1 may be fairly effective. However what if candidates start “buying” some “public” demonstrations for themselves? You see alone it can still be circumvented. However if you make the grip too tight you may also violate free speech rights from people. It’s a rather complicated issue.

#2 is easily circumvented. We’ve seen many “renowned” auditing companies participating in corruption schemes…

It’s complicated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I agree it’s complicated but I don’t think it would be untenable.

As for the issue with the audits, the answer to that is simple. The the results of the audits have to be completely transparently available for public review such that watchdog groups can call them on it when they are caught cheating.

Also codify into it, severe penalties for violations on the magnitude of those currently in place for tax fraud or SEC insider trading penalties.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Agreed. It has to be a multi-pronged approach. The only weak spot in the chain is that the same ones subjected to such restrictions are the ones making the law that would restrict themselves. I’ve thought of some “direct democracy” approach to those areas (ie: who judges the judge? or who enforces laws against law enforcement?). Still, having it on the table for discussion is always healthy!

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: @"Ninja": Yes, there is: Steeply progressive tax rates.

“I’m throwing ideas but is there a way to help preventing such auctioning of laws?”

Especially taxes on Wall Street stock trades, currently totally untaxed: a rigged casino, not financing industry.

High taxes were done in modern times up to the Reagan administration. After promising general prosperity, what lower tax rates have done is caused The Rich (and Congress) to go for short term gains, to get incredibly rich hollowing out American industry, and recently to loot directly, and now engineering a collapse in which the 5% who now get well over half the national income get nearly all, under a corporatized control grid worse than any political system yet.

We can’t tinker around the edges: people just have to see that to be Rich is to be evil.

I admit that limiting The Rich takes a whole culture to implement, and we’re quickly losing the sense of economic justice. You kids have been sold the notion that what’s good for The Rich will soon be good for you, but the evidence of 30 years is now in, and it’s total lie. The prior progressive tax rates created more equality, and morality is closely related to money: everyone who gets Rich becomes corrupt, so you can’t expect Congress to remain moral while people and corporations have unlimited money to bribe them.

You only asked for help, but limiting The Rich by merely taking away incredible excesses would cure 90% of all societal problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: @"Ninja": Yes, there is: Steeply progressive tax rates.

“We can’t tinker around the edges: people just have to see that to be Rich is to be evil.”

This is quite extreme!

Realistically speaking – and unless we hit some sort of perfect utopia – you’ll always have people that are rich and poor relatively to each other.

The important thing – I think – is not to let the gap between rich and poor widen too much. And the key to achieve this is not to hammer on those at the top, but to give a hand to those at the bottom to reach closer to the top.

Pushing towards the top is the only way to achieve progress. Pushing the top down will only ensure mediocrity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 @"Ninja": Yes, there is: Steeply progressive tax rates.

True, but the “rich” do have a higher capacity to cause damage.

The “rich” can manipulate the stock market and cause a global economic collapse, ruining the lives of millions (perhaps Billions?) of people for years, for example. A poor person has no such ability.

So I sort of understand the hate. I am merely pointing out that we’ll never reach the top if we keep racing to the bottom.

silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: @"Ninja": Yes, there is: Steeply progressive tax rates.

Actually, Jesus had no problems with the Rich, he had problems with the Rich who used and abused their position and wealth to get ahead while leaving others behind.

Remember, his apostles were fishermen and carpenters, at the time, those were pretty wealthy professions. Heck, Jesus even promoted making sure that people pay their full taxes “give Ceasar’s things unto Ceasar” after all.

Some of the people he worked with were prostitutes, tax collectors, the rich and the poor.

Jesus didn’t care.

He DID, however, have a strong dislike of people who abused their positions for wealth and gain while leaving everyone behind, remember what he did to the money takers in the temple?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Stricter laws around inhability is a way to go. If you think inhability into almost every part of the political and public sector, the result is less corruption. You will probably be able to see proof in the numbers from certain european countries, though the extra administration and therefore surveillance of politicians makes them very reluctant to implement such measures.

It would seem hard to enforce x % of representatives as beneficiaries since the amount of money mostly gets channelled through employees of the “dirty companies”. x % would force “clean companies” to put restrictions on their employees handing over of money, which is not desirable.

There are other ways to reduce the effect, but those take election reform (if you no longer have only 2 real fractions dilution and blurry compromises reduce the value of a bought politician, if the politicians were less likely to tow party line which would likely be achieved by opening the primaries, if the congressmen and house representatives were up for vote more often, their value to companies would fall etc. etc.), a far longer and more open hearing process when laws are underway and non-compete clauses, barring politicians from certain jobs for at least some years. None of those are realistic since it is either in all politicians fear to lose their last glimmer of privacy or it is a partisan issue where one party benifits more than the other, which makes it even harder.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Lobbying according to Constitution framer Madison

From Wikipedia (emphasis mine):
When the Constitution was crafted by Framers such as James Madison, their intent was to design a governmental system in which powerful interest groups would be rendered incapable of subdoing the general will. According to Madison, a faction was “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Madison considered factions as dangerous, since they threatened to bring about tyranny if their control became too great.

out_of_the_blue says:

"Submitted by Donny Shaw on Jul 23, 2013"

Yeah, we KNOW, Mike. Last week’s news.

Speaking of money: What value do you add to this that brings you income? Without that source as inspiration for a bit of ranting, and taking the blockquote intact, you have exactly bupkis. You’re supposedly an economist, so should be able to explain it in 25 or fewere simple words…

This is a big mystery of teh internets, and yet again I call on Mike to explain how his magic money machine actually works, ’cause that’s apparently a WHOLE lot more reliable than any notion he’s put out for us to try. Guess we can ALL just re-post Mike’s text, sit back and let the money roll in…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Submitted by Donny Shaw on Jul 23, 2013"

People (including you) read his blog, ads gets served up and a little money comes in. Readers also often buy his merchandise, books, etc. and also donate money to the site too.

All which makes him money, how you cannot see this is absurd. But what should I expect from you, the village idiot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Submitted by Donny Shaw on Jul 23, 2013"

That’s an odd question coming from someone availing themselves of one of this sites truly unique features: anonymous commenting. No you are using a pseudonym but you’re also not creating an actual account to use it so you’ve tailored your commenting to exactly the level of anonymity you desire, a level which isn’t even available on most sites that offer commenting.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Re: solution from canada

Will not work in US. Special Interst Groups hide behind the 1st Amendment which the court has consistantly ruled that lobbies have the right to petition the government. There are rules about money contribution of course. But the sad fact is that our represenatives have been bought and sold by corporations and special interest groups. Those with the most money get to decide what our goverment looks like. I for one am not very happy with what America looks like today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: solution from canada

Yeah, we should just suspend the 1st amendment. That would fix everything. How could it not, Guardian declared it would!

Seriously though, why, in your mind, does taking my small business and incorporating it magically remove my right to petition the government for a redress of grievances?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: solution from canada

does taking my small business and incorporating it magically remove my right to petition the government for a redress of grievances?

It doesn’t, and nobody is suggesting otherwise. But let’s look at this for a minute:

If you’re running a sole proprietorship, you are your business. There is no distinction. Speak away.

If you incorporate, you are no longer your business. The corporation is a distinct legal entity, separate from you. I don’t think that corporations should be afforded the same rights as human beings, since they are legal fictions, not human beings. Some of the same rights? Sure, but let’s call them “privileges” in this context.

You, however, are still a human being and still have all the same rights that you had before. Nothing has been curtailed. Speak away!

Anonymous Coward says:

It won’t be a complete solution but for starters:

– start calling it what it is: corruption
– make voting less dependent on big wallets / donations: give everyone a fixed amount of air/billboard/space/whatever (something like this would also give the whole country a sudden boost of millions of dollars that can be spent on useful things)
– stop treating companies as people (or, alternatively, go all the way and imprison them for being dangers to society. You guys still got that death sentence, right?)

Joseph Ratliff (profile) says:

what about a "salary cap" on contributions?

A salary cap of say, $150,000 on all contributions to a single politician… and no “corporations as people” can donate.

In short, contributions must come from a real person.

Political campaigns would have to go “grassroots” and come from a politician’s pocket, but a cap on “ad spend” would also be placed, to even the playing field for all candidates.

I like this idea-fest, but “how to” actually implement it would be another thing entirely.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Don't Forget the Parties

The political machines, in the form of political parties, also control much of the money/support for candidates. RNC or DNC doesn’t like some candidates positions? They merely remove their support for that candidate. This, unfortunately, does have significant impact.

Dump the political parties along with the money in politics. Let a candidate stand on their own experience, ability to express, and ethics.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, if money literally “buys votes”, then every representative who received a significant contribution regarding this case would have voted no. However, because only 9 of the top 10 contributed politicians voted no, it’s clear that it’s a bit more complicated than “money buys votes”. That’s what Mike was trying to point out in that phrase.

However, it is abundantly clear that money “influences” votes, and while it is not the sole determining factor (as it would be in cases of “bought” votes), it plays an egregiously large role in politics, as the reported document makes clear. I for one would like to see a ban on all campaign contributions, both from companies and citizens. Make it so that no candidate can spend any money to advance their campaign; no ads of any kind would be a huge start. Take away the uses for campaign contributions and you take away the impetus for giving them. Politicians would only be able to influence voters through public debates with their opponents, giving everyone a level playing field regardless of funding. Further, without the constant blasting of attack ads and emotional appeals, one might hope that voters will be more inclined to actually research the candidates before voting.

Once the need for funding is gone, you cut the power of lobbying groups considerably. There will still be those instances of “favors” for voting certain ways, but those are risky to both entities, and will never be as pervasive as influencing through election contributions.

It wouldn’t fix everything overnight, but banning campaign advertising of any kind would be a huge first step.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

I told you so!

In another post, another thread I stated that the main reason the NSA has nothing to fear for being shut down is the fact that their supporters are well compensated for their support.

Let’s face facts here:

Money talks, everything else walks.

That goes for every single Congress critter alive right now. If they didn’t have campaigns that need to be financed (starting next year by the way), they’d be less emboldened to support the illegal activities of any government agency.

But since they are, they turn a blind eye to all of it, and a eagle eye for their donors and the money.

The worst Congress money can buy, isn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

this is despicable but happens with the US entertainment industries and Hollywood as well. in fact, i seem to remember reading where Obama is funded primarily by those industries. i also seem to remember reading where not so long ago, Dodd threatened to remove funding if Congress didn’t do as the industries told them to do!! this is an absolute disgrace! when the top politicians and the actual leader of an extremely powerful nation is run by self-interested industries and when their particular ‘wants’ are not forthcoming, those industries can get away with threatening those politicians to do what they want! i appreciate that there is always gonna be corruption to a degree in all politics, but to go to this is shameful!!

davnel (profile) says:

It's Obvious

This story demonstrates the truth as Mark Twain and many others have stated. This is pure extortion on the part of Congress. “Pay us gobs of money or we will:
1. write laws to put you out of business, or
2. Vote for those laws that were written by others”

Criminals, I tell ya!

Maybe if we just shut up and leave them alone, Congress and Big Business will eliminate each other….Nah!!


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