Michigan Lawmaker Flees Twitter After Reports Highlight She Helped AT&T Push Anti-Competition Broadband Law

from the the-best-laws-money-can-buy dept

Last week we noted how Freshman Michigan Representative Michele Hoitenga has been pushing a broadband competition-killing bill she clearly neither wrote nor understands. The industry-backed bill, HB 5099 (pdf), would ban Michigan towns and cities from using taxpayer funds to build or operate community broadband networks, and would hamstring these communities' abilities to strike public/private partnerships. The bill is just the latest example of broadband industry protectionist laws ISPs ghost write, then shovel unobstructed through the corrupt state legislative process.

ISPs want to have their cake and to eat it too; they don't want to upgrade or deploy broadband into rural or lower income areas, but they don't want others to either. Why? Because these communities might highlight how there's creative, collaborative alternatives to the duopoly status quo we all despise. And they certainly don't want added outside pressure disrupting the good thing (read: duopoly regulatory capture resulting in no competition and higher rates) they've enjoyed for the better part of a generation.

While companies like AT&T could deter towns and cities from looking for creative alternatives by offering better, cheaper service, it's much less expensive to throw money at lawmakers who, with the help of groups like ALEC, craft and pass laws protecting their regional mono/duopolies. All while pretending that their only real motivation is to protect the taxpayer, of course.

And while this process has played out in dozens of states repeatedly over the last fifteen years (more than twenty states have let ISPs write similar state laws), Hoitenga's lack of experience provided a closer look at the often-grotesque process. As we noted last week, Hoitenga doesn't appear to even remotely understand how the broadband industry works, from her belief that Michigan residents had 37 different ISPs to choose from, to her argument that letting giant ISPs dictate what locals can do in their own communities somehow...helps the little guy.

As the press began to politely highlight how Hoitenga should probably actually understand the industry she's legislating and the bill she's supporting, the lawmaker refused to comment -- and instead chose to flee Twitter:

For added protection, she blocked my account specifically from following her whatsoever:

That should certainly fix the problem, right? While it's unclear which giant ISP wrote the bill Hoitenga couldn't bother to understand, AT&T has been particularly active on this front over the last decade and is the most likely culprit. And based on a quick look at campaign financing and lobbying disclosures, Hoitenga's fealty to the status quo appears to have come relatively cheap for the multi-billion dollar media, television and telecom conglomerate:

Campaign finance records reviewed by IBT show that two of her largest campaign contributors are AT&T Michigan and the Telecommunications Association of Michigan (TAM): AT&T gave her campaign $1,500 while TAM provided her with $3,500 — large amounts for a first term state representative. The Michigan Cable Telecommunications Association — a separate entity from TAM — gave Hoitenga’s campaign $1,000.

According to state lobbying records reviewed by IBT, Hoitenga met and dined with TAM lobbyists during the first half of the year. Michigan’s lobbying disclosures are filed every six months, so it is currently unknown if TAM lobbyists has met with Hoitenga since June. The $142.82 spent to take Hoitenga out for a meal appears to be the only food and beverage expense TAM has disclosed in conjunction with its lobbying since 2001 , as far back as online lobbying records go.

Again, why bother to offer better and cheaper broadband service when you can quite literally buy protectionist state law for a few thousand dollars and some duck a l'orange?

Update: While Hoitenga has since restored public access to her Twitter account, I remain blocked. She has subsequently tried to claim on Facebook that the accounts she blocked were issuing threats against her and her family. For the record I asked Hoitenga one, entirely civil question.


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  • icon
    Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 4:12am

    OK - so that's her price, she'll happily sell out for $6k. How about the locals put together a quick crowdfunding campaign - raise $10k or so and then they'll be able to own there very own politician - that'll be a first...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 4:42am

      Re:

      Unfortunately, that won't work. AT&T and TAM have more money than people could ever hope to raise. Let's say the public was able to raise $10k, the ISP's will simply donate more and make the point moot. All the meanwhile, she would sit back collecting the money the general public just donated, plus the additional money the ISP's just provided.....and use that money towards her re-election. Completely defeating the purpose.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 4:44am

        Re: Re:

        Damn - sometimes it almost feels like the entire system is rigged....

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 6:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Let me make this simple, we gave it all away. ALL OF IT! Well not just you, but your fellow citizens, your parents, and your grandparents.

          The root and core is the political party. You probably do not even know how terrible it really is.

          Our system of government is rigged in favor of the voters... you just can't get them to understand or see that. Not even in the least! Humans have a natural predilection for grouping up, folks are "stronger" in groups after all, but when you join one, you give your voice away. Out of fear of going it alone you will refuse to give up your position in this group, and that is when they KNOW they have you.

          Now that a politician knows that since you belong to no group, your voice is weak, so why should they listen to you? Be they D or R, their group demands money first.

          John Oliver gives a "small" glimpse of how much the party OWNS your politicians.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ylomy1Aw9Hk

          George Washington has it right about political parties.

          Additionally, everyone's whining about first past the post causing this is puerile ignorance. Ignore them, yes its not the best but also often used as a scapegoat. The overt focus on who is president foments this exact problem. If people would instead focus on their Representatives and Senators instead, you would find a lot more tolerance for more than just 2 parties which would at least further dilute their power.

          The best way to cause a divide in any nation, is to let it's entire population vote on a single figurehead like a President, Prime Minister, or King.

          If we returned voting for President Back to its original state, you would find people paying a LOT more attention to where it belongs... House and Congress, instead of the President where it does not belong except in times of war!

          We made a huge mistake when we changed how our presidents were voted on! But that was what the parties wanted... more power, consolidated and invested into an individual, which will only ruin liberty!

          We did this to ourselves! Everyone refusing to understand that IS THE PROBLEM! Like AA if you can't admit you have a problem, you won't be fixing it!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            William Braunfeld (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:30am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I agree with most of this post, but I do firmly believe that the first-past-the-post system contributes heavily to the two party problem; strategic voting, much as I hate it, is the result of the winner-take-all approach.
            You are right, though, that the president doesn't matter nearly as much as our country seems to think he does. If you ask me, the biggest issue in our political system is gerrymandering; you can't forget that it's not 100% our fault when the system is -actively rigged- to create no-competition districts for certain politicians.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Bergman (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 3:09pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "If we returned voting for President Back to its original state, you would find people paying a LOT more attention to where it belongs... House and Congress, instead of the President where it does not belong except in times of war!"

            The flaw here is that we ARE in a time of war, and have been longer than I have been alive -- and I am 43 years old!

            You know that big military spending authorization bill that comes up in Congress every four years, that has must-pass status? That's Congress declaring that our current state of emergency/war-time is ongoing and needs to continue for another four years.

            If Congress ever fails to pass that before the deadline -- or chooses not to pass it at all -- then the war-time footing our military has been in since Vietnam will end, and our enlistment totals will revert to peace-time levels. We'll have to withdraw from a number of treaties too, since our peace-time military levels won't be adequate to meet our obligations under them.

            But that ongoing state of emergency and war-time military footing is what gives our President such immense power, and makes that election such a big deal.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Former fundraiser, 24 Oct 2017 @ 9:55am

        Re: Re:

        While you're right, they are limited as to what they can give. If a bunch of individuals got together to donate, they could easily overspend those limits. This is not taking superPACs into consideration.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeDetroit (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 4:52am

      Re:

      Term limits. They can take care of her for decades something crowdfunding can't do. Term limits, which sound good in theory, assure corporate control of our government.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bamboo Harvester (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 11:28am

        Re: Re:

        The longer a person is in Office, the larger the power bloc they amass. Look at Pelosi - even before she went senile she was a complete loon. Her presiding over the sea change under obama *should* have put her at the bottom of the food chain, not continuing on as Leader of the minority party.

        Frankly, it's not the elected members of the House and Senate which are the main problem. It's the thousands of unfireable government union employees who really run the show. They decide who sees what and how reports will be skewed.

        We turned government into a growth industry. With tenure...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        RV Det, 24 Oct 2017 @ 11:30am

        Re: Re:

        Michigan does have term limits, and they're proving to be a double edged sword. Nobody cares about building relationships with people on the other side in Lansing because they know by the time it's useful, they'll be out of time. Plus the leaders of the parties will be gone too. It's what happened with the real road/gas tax which was progressive and accounted for inflation. Both the republican and democrat ended up running out of terms and the bill died.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Oblate (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 5:40am

      Re:

      That money might be better spent on her opponent in the next election.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dan Fuhry, 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:27am

      Re:

      You can't cure a crack addict by giving them more crack. You'll just make them more desperate and willing to do anything for their next fix.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 4:36am

    High ROI

    Reps and senators have been the most lucrative investment option for decades, if you happen to be one of the big established players.

    It's more cost-effective to shell out $100k to bunch of politicians than to spend $10m to improve your services when you can charge the same price in both scenarios.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 4:42am

    duck a l'orange Sorry, but this was a "duck surprise".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 5:37am

    "If you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide." Right, MyNameHere?

    Bah! Humbug!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 5:42am

    as long as the locals remember what this industries 'bought and paid for' politician has done to screw those she is supposed to represent and stop her political career as soon as possible, at least it will make a point that hopefully others will be wary of having happen to them!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeDetroit (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 6:02am

      Re:

      Her "career" is term limited. She has no incentive to actually represent her constituents.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 6:32am

        Re: Re:

        Oh... she is definitely representing her constituents...

        People are just getting confused about who they are!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 8:17am

      Re:

      A thing called Gerrymandering makes certain that most politicians are safe from the wrath of the public.

      It's a neat little thing that lets politicians pick their voters, and pick voters who they know will loyally elect a blue or red politician no matter what.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 6:03am

    Kill business subsidies

    Giving taxes to businesses kills competition, kills innovation, kills freedom.
    Say "Hell no!" to free enterprise-killing government-subsidies!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 6:37am

      Re: Kill business subsidies

      The best way to minimize exposure to the private economys influence in politics depends on the area. More active enforcement of laws and thus a strenghtening of many agencies as well as a renationalisation of military and police work among other services would be a necessity to avoid some of the vested interests and pork you see today. In other terms: Grants are worse than subsidies and tax breaks in terms of corrupting. The way to minimize surfaces that lend itself to corruption would also entail a stronger national government!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 6:57am

    I wonder if having your twitter restricted to the public is against the law or something.

    This account's Tweets are protected.

    Only confirmed followers have access to MicheleHoitenga's Tweets and complete profile. Click the "Follow" button to send a follow request.

    seems kinda sketchy to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 7:12am

    Someone in the Ars comments pointed out that Hoitenga understands so little about the subject, that she retweeted someone who was proving her claims wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 7:35am

    Why is lobbying legal? We need to protect the uninformed like Rep. Michele Hoitenga by making this activity illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 7:37am

    Typo

    ISPs want their cake and to eat it too;

    ISPs want to eat their cake and have it too;

    Please try to get it right from now on. Thanks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 8:24am

    "ISPs want their cake and to eat it too; they don't want to upgrade or deploy broadband into low ROI areas, but they don't want others to either. "


    Why do they care? Perhaps they realize the result would be a better than what they provide and their existing customers would then want access also thus putting them out of "business".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 8:53am

    Techdirt minion is a fascist, plain and simple.

    "would ban Michigan towns and cities from using taxpayer funds to build or operate community broadband networks, and would hamstring these communities' abilities to strike public/private partnerships." -- Public funds, private profits is fascism. Capitalism was when the gov't allowed, and all money came from private hands. What minion advocates is not capitalism.

    The "business model" that Techdirt advocates always have someone else paying for the product (infrastructure here), which is then used by grifters who put in no money or effort, like: Hollywood makes the movies, and Kim Dotcom profits; artists make music, and Napster profits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 8:56am

      Re: Techdirt minion is a fascist, plain and simple.

      Hi Michele!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 9:09am

      Re: Techdirt minion is a fascist, plain and simple.

      Reading the comments is astonishing.

      The obvious take is that Hoitenga is for the state preventing LOCAL fascism, of cities subsidizing corporations. How can that be bad? -- It's what some above argue for!

      >>> "ISPs want their cake and to eat it too; they don't want to upgrade or deploy broadband into low ROI areas, but they don't want others to either."

      That's a problem which calls for better regulation of limiting profits and in exchange for the monopoly required to serve "low ROI areas". -- But minion's solution is WORSE than more of the same! Lurches over into overt fascism: subsidizing more "competition". And then those corporations will forever want subsidies.

      One solution is to simply break up corporations especially monopolies after a period of time (I suggest 25 years). They don't have any "right" to exist, nor to continue, nor to become large: the results are always tyranny. -- Fascists will make themselves known here by continuing to support unlimited corporations, and as having "Rights".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 9:25am

        Re: Re: Techdirt minion is a fascist, plain and simple.

        Dang, out_of_the_blue. We get it, you think corporations like the RIAA should rule the planet. There's no need to talk to yourself from multiple TOR-generated IP addresses about how you laugh at "minions".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        William Braunfeld (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:35am

        Fascist

        You keep using that word.

        I don't think it means what you think it means.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kristina, 24 Oct 2017 @ 9:39am

    There’s a typo in your link. It’s the HB 5099, not HB 5009. Thank you so much for including a link to the actual legislation. I only mention the typo, because I think it’s a very well thought out and written article, and I want to share the link on various social media. Feel free to delete this comment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:16am

    The author misidentified the bill number (should be HB 5099) and also clearly did NOT actually read it.

    http://www.michiganvotes.org/2017-HB-5099

    "To prohibit local governments from using any federal, state, or local funds or loans to pay for the cost of providing high-speed internet service, but not prohibit a local from contracting with a private company to do so."

    This is just lazy reporting. Come on, Techdirt, you're better than this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 2:40pm

      Re:

      By what reasoning do you imagine Karl did not read the amendment bill?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 11:12pm

      Re:

      What you quoted says that a municipal government can not use taxpayer funds to provide internet service.

      They are however allowed to outsource it to the private sector.

      Techdirt seems to have it right.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MadG, 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:25am

    Michigan Lawmaker Flees Twitter After Reports Highlight She Helped AT&T Push Anti-Competition Broadband Law

    'No' to people, 'Yes' to corporation. that is the motto of republicans. What a boot licker

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:52am

      Re: Michigan Lawmaker Flees Twitter After Reports Highlight She Helped AT&T Push Anti-Competition Broadband Law

      Don't forget Marsha Blackburn.Her erroneous ad was removed from Twitter.Great example of live by the sword,die by the sword.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    vikingvista (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:33am

    You have it backwards

    Freeing up a market is the opposite of protectionist, regardless of who such liberalization benefits.

    Government subsidies, targeted tax breaks, and public/private partnerships are precisely how protectionist cronyism works, regardless of who benefits from such protectionism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    William Braunfeld (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:41am

    Uhh... how is making a law that prevents local government from creating a competing service (and does not, lemme remind you, *prevent* any corporate ISP from operating in the area) "free up" the market?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      William Braunfeld (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:43am

      Re:

      Bah, that was meant to be a reply to vikingvista above, and was poorly typed out. Should have been "which does not" instead of "and does not".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      vikingvista (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 4:19pm

      Re:

      William Braunfeld,

      Whether a government uses its police powers to *protect* its crony by taxing the crony's competitors, or by selectively subsidizing the crony, makes no difference. (Let me remind you, a tariff, does not *prevent* any foreign company from importing and selling its goods.) It is still protectionism, as that term has been used for about a century.

      The removal of such cronyism, e.g., by banning a government from engaging in it, is one form of market liberalization--consumers are no longer forced their government to provide (through taxes) for a political crony they don't prefer; and consumers are also no longer forced to pay more (because of tariffs) for the foreign goods they do prefer.

      For the author to refer to banning government protection of any company as "protectionism", is to misuse the term as its exact opposite.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        William Braunfeld (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 8:23pm

        Re: Re:

        Except that in this case, it *is* protectionism - but only if you can notice the subtleties. You see, banning municipal broadband and public-private partnerships is not protectionism for the municipal broadband or the partnerships, but it *is* protectionism for the *incumbents.* They're being protected from competition; hence why they fight for these sorts of rules.
        Specific definitions are rarely helpful in politics. Nuance is key, and the devil is always in the details.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          vikingvista (profile), 25 Oct 2017 @ 10:10pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Protectionism" has a meaning. Since any legislation necessarily helps some parties and hurts others, your use of the term would make any and all legislation protectionist regardless of what it does. Anti-protectionist legislation would be semantically impossible. That would make the term useless (not to mention incompatible with long-held usage).

          What you or the author might reasonably say, is that you support legislation that helps the good guys and hurts the bad guys, leaving out the term "protectionism". Of course, you would then be no different than any protectionist, since everyone believes he is one of the good guys.

          Again, just because some party you don't like, or a large corporation, or an incumbent, or a bad guy benefits from legislation does not make that legislation "protectionist". There were undoubtedly "evil" corporations that benefited from the Civil Rights Act, the abolition of slavery, and women's suffrage--that does not make those measures protectionist.

          It is only protectionist if a government actively uses its police powers to selectively protect the crony party from competition. That means subsidizing the crony (forcefully transferring funds from competitors and consumers through taxes) or repressing the crony's competitors. Ending or banning selective subsidies or taxes can NEVER correctly be called "protectionism", since those measures are always and everywhere *anti*-protectionist.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:54am

    Can't take the heat

    Stay out the kitchen

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    philnc, 24 Oct 2017 @ 8:58pm

    Broadband by and for the community

    ... should probably be the #1 issue for most people. Unfortunately, local government ownership and development is probably not the answer anyway. Local government has proved to often be just as corrupt as the incumbent ISPs and their friends in state legislatures. What we really need are nonprofit consumer-owner cooperatives that have access to Internet POPs guaranteed by law. That's a tall order, of course, because to make it work you need to organize consumers at the local level and to have them engaged with an intensity and in numbers that haven't been seen since the days of the bucket brigades and New England town meetings. The situation isn't hopeless, but it is pretty bleak. Here in NC I think there was only one municipal ISP in operation, Greenlight in Wilson, before the legislature cut off further efforts with a law similar to the one discussed above. Greenlight has enjoyed a good reputation over the years, and shows how municipal broadband could be done right. But I'm not so sure it would work as well in cities where political machines still run the show.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2017 @ 2:18am

      Re: Broadband by and for the community

      It is quite possibe for a rural community to install their own fiber. They took a DIY approach to installing a 150 miles of fiber, in underground duct, so as to get high speed Internet to a rural area, including negotiating rights of way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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