Want A Box At The Grammies With Two Bigshot Congressmen? That'll Be $5,000 (Entertainment Lobbyists Only)

from the soft-corruption dept

We've talked a lot in the past about the concept of soft corruption. These are the kinds of practices that are most likely legal, and possibly even common among the political class, but which absolutely stink of corruption to the average American. And that's a huge problem, not just because of the general ethical questions raised by such soft corruption, but because it creates a cynical American public that does not trust politicians to adequately represent their interests.

Here's just one example. It appears that a bunch of industry lobbyists have been receiving the following email:

If you can't read it, it says the following:

Subject: Chairman Jeffries Grammy Weekend Feb 8-10

Good afternoon!

Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Ranking Member Nadler will be splitting a box for the upcoming Grammy Awards Feb 8-10. The room block is at the newly renovated Sheraton Grand Los Angeles, which is a short walk from the Staples Center. To access the invite and registration form, please CLICK HERE

Tickets are $5,000 each. If you need a second ticket then please let me know and I will put you in touch with Yuichi Miyamoto from Ranking Member Nadler's team.

Please let me know as soon as possible if you want to attend since we have a limited number of spots. We also request that you use the room block for the stay.

Thanks again!

The link then takes people to an official invite to hang out with Reps. Jeffries and Nadler at the Grammies. Just $5 grand a pop. They'll even book your hotel for you! What a deal! What a steal!

Jeffries and Nadler are both bigshots in Congress. Jeffries (who originally ran for Congress stating: "Washington is broken. Congress is dysfunctional.... We deserve more") was just elected to be the chair of the Democratic Caucus, which makes him an incredibly powerful Congressman. Nadler is the current "Ranking Member" on the powerful Judciary Committee, and once the new Congress begins, will become the Chair of the Judiciary Committee -- the very committee in Congress that is in charge of copyright law. Nadler has a long history of pushing horrific anti-public copyright bills. Back in 2012, he proposed what I jokingly referred to as the RIAA Bailout Act of 2012, as the entire point of the bill was to drastically increase the rates internet radio would have to pay the record labels. He's also mocked digital rights activists, by calling the idea that "you bought it, you own it" was "an extreme digital view."

So, it certainly does seem notable that both of these Congressional Reps (1) have "a box" at the Grammies and (2) they're actively asking industry lobbyists to give them $5,000 per ticket to hang out with the Congressmen at the Grammies.

Again, some may suggest that this is "how fundraising is done" in Congress (though, frankly, it's usually a bit less blatant). But, even so, is this how it should be done? Doesn't anyone in Jeffries' or Nadler's office think that going to a key recording industry event and asking the industry's biggest companies to pay them $5k to spend some time with them... looks really, really bad? And, relatedly, how the hell can we trust that the various copyright bills that are certain to be under Nadler's control over the next two years (at least) are actually written for the benefit of the public, as per the Constitutional requirement, rather than the benefit of his $5,000 paying "friends" who hang out with him at the biggest celebration of the industry over which Nadler gets to set key rules?

In the past, there have been ethical questions raised by Congressional Representatives hosting fundraisers targeting industries they have jurisdiction over regulating, but these things tend to get swept under the rug in Congress as part of "the way things are done."

But, it certainly stinks of the kind of "soft corruption" that makes the public distrust the government. Indeed, it's the kind of thing that makes people say: "Washington is broken. Congress is dysfunctional.... We deserve more."

Filed Under: congress, copyright, grammies, hakeem jeffries, jerry nadler, lobbying, recording industry, regulators, soft corruption


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  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 9:49am

    Pretty textbox example

    This is a really clear example of the old saying, you either die a hero, or live to see yourself become the villain.

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

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    identicon
    Gus's 24hr Towing -- Go for the Gus Tow!, 17 Dec 2018 @ 9:49am

    NOT SOLELY for benefit of The Public!

    written for the benefit of the public, as per the Constitutional requirement,

    NO, clearly the "exclusive" clause, as you pirates so often complain, is to benefit those who MAKE the products that are stolen.

    The Copyright Clause is the practical compromise between The Public which of course wants all including entertainments to be GIVEN for free and those who invest work and money (besides lost opportunity to do other with those) so that ALL can benefit. It cannot work on hope that people will pay, there MUST be some degree of guaranteed exclusive and enforcement on you freeloaders who won't pay under any circumstances, besides against commercial-scale grifters who put in zero work yet often get most of the potential gains. Period.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Gus's 24hr Towing -- Go for the Gus Tow!, 17 Dec 2018 @ 9:52am

      Re: NOT SOLELY for benefit of The Public!

      As for the rest of Masnick's rant: meh. Only a vehicle to carry his hatred of RIAA besides apparently repeat of personal targeting for past support of it. But when have you ever complained about GOOGLE influencing Congress?

      Now you have some actual substance on which to target your empty gainsaying and cheaty hiding, kids. Enjoy.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 9:53am

      Re: NOT SOLELY for benefit of The Public!

      "The Public which of course wants all including entertainments to be GIVEN for free"

      Speak for yourself Biff. Generalizations are usually wrong, for the obvious reasons, all that is needed is one instance where the proclamation does not hold - but you knew that.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 11:34am

        Re: Re: NOT SOLELY for benefit of The Public!

        He literally used that exact same argument in a thread earlier about Netflix. You know, the service that people explicitly pay for. Also using that to whine about people "freeloading" by only paying for the bandwidth twice.

        Even by his standards, the argument is extraordinarily weak.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 10:23am

      Re: NOT SOLELY for benefit of The Public!

      clearly the "exclusive" clause, as you pirates so often complain, is to benefit those who MAKE the products that are stolen

      You have a weird definition of "clearly". The constitution says, very explicitly, what the purpose is: "To promote the progress of science and useful arts". Everything else is just your fankwank headcanon.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 11:12am

      Re: NOT SOLELY for benefit of The Public!

      You have not explored the explosion of works being published on the Internet. They give lie to the idea that it is a very rare gift. What you keep promoting is the limitation of publication by gate keepers, so that most creative people labor in vain for lack of acceptance by a publisher.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 1:46pm

      Copyright is a system that is—or was, at least at its inception—meant to ultimately benefit the public. Yes, it outlines and creates benefits for creators, but those benefits are meant to be temporary. Copyright in this day and age not only removes the “temporary” part of most copyright systems (such that virtually nothing created in the year of your birth will ever fall into the public domain within your lifetime), it creates far more stringent limits on public use of copyrighted content (even with regards to Fair Use) and turns copyright into a censorship tool (hi there, DMCA takedown system).

      You love to whine about “The Public” and how they want “all[,] including entertainments[,] to be GIVEN for free”. Have you ever considered that the public would be more than happy to pay for copies of such works if they could be assured that they were buying a copy to own instead of renting a copy from a corporation that could revoke access to said copy at any time? Have you ever considered how many independent artists make a living from their work without having to use copyright as a cudgel against their fans? (I mean, shit, I know of a fair number of furries who make decent money through commissions alone.) Have you ever thought about how maybe, just maybe, we might have a richer culture if works made, say, thirty years ago or more were in the public domain and could thus be used as the basis for new, legally-okay creative works?

      Nothing you say about copyright has any place in a serious discussion of copyright (outside of mockery and dismantlings such as mine) because your view of copyright can be summed up as this: “Fuck the plebs, copyright holders are demigods, and corporations need more power to enforce copyright even tighter than it is now.” And yes, your positions on copyright are pro-corporate because corporations are the world’s most powerful copyright holders with the world’s most “important” copyrights (just look at how much pop culture Disney owns nowadays!) and the greatest ability to enforce copyright (read: use copyright as a weapon) on a dangerously broad scale. Support for stricter, more stringent copyright benefits only corporations. It also denies the public—which includes you, might I add—the very thing which copyright was supposed to have given them: a rich public domain of cultural works, both scientific and artistic, from which the public can draw to create new works of their own.

      But I suppose making sure Michael Jackson can turn a profit for the corporation that owns a dead man’s copyrights means more to you than growing both the public domain and our shared culture.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 9:56am

    Legality *is* the corruption

    These are the kinds of practices that are most likely legal, and possibly even common among the political class, but which absolutely stink of corruption

    It stinks of corruption because it is corruption. It being legal isn't a mitigating factor or something to be mentioned off-hand, it's a core aspect of the corruption. These are, after all, the people who write the law and write the exceptions that put themselves above it. I mean, it would be inconvenient if politicians couldn't legally accept bribes, make robocalls, etc.

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

    • identicon
      Michael, 17 Dec 2018 @ 10:29am

      Re: Legality *is* the corruption

      "I'll make it legal"

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 11:09am

      Re: Legality *is* the corruption

      Well, as Mike noted, we traditionally think of corruption in terms of 'Hard' Corruption, the undertaking of actions that are either universally criminal, or criminal when performed by the general public but just as much a problem when performed by a public official, often using their powers to avoid criminal penalties they otherwise would be exposed to. A good example of the second type is senators in charge of crafting rules for the securities markets, despite having power to gain extensive insider information through compelled testimony, can still invest in securities because in the legislation designed to close insider trading loopholes, they made themselves immune to the law. This is the kind of thing you discussed, those in power being above the laws they write. But it is not what is being discussed.

      The way the discussion focuses only on Hard Corruption, much like the republican focus on 'collusion' as the only thing Muller is looking for, and the idea that the investigation is into Trump personally, and is a waste of time if it can't prove wrong doing by Trump, an intentional move by politicians who have been narrowing the discussion toward clear crimes since at least the Watergate era, and away from the soft corruption.

      Soft corruption is doing things that are universally legal, but raise ethical questions when performed by someone in power. If I got a box at the Grammies and invited industry executives, I likely wouldn't get $5K a head, but even if I did, no one would care. That's just a bunch of financial dick swinging. But when a congressman does it, it turns heads. When a congressman whose primary focus is legislation aimed toward that industry, its a problem.

      Soft corruption works in part because while unlikely these kinds of events can have a fundraising purpose, even if the need for that fundraising is an issue of contention. The issue is the clear conflict present in the combination of deep pocketed individuals whose interests align with the key legislative activity of the congressman at hand. It takes an activity that is legal for ordinary persons, but is either questionable ethically, or an outright a conflict of interest when performed by a person in position of authority.

      That is why it is being highlighted. The legality doesn't make it Corruption. It is what makes it soft corruption.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 12:37pm

        Re: Re: Legality *is* the corruption

        Soft corruption is doing things that are universally legal, but raise ethical questions when performed by someone in power.

        What we're talking about is not universally legal. "Bribery is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in charge of a public or legal duty." (Wikipedia)

        Like with campaign contributions, the people paying $5K expect the official to work for them. If a lower level official like a DMV employee accepted $5K from a person who wanted something from them, do you think it would go the same way?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 1:24pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legality *is* the corruption

          Bribery is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in charge of a public or legal duty.

          Unfortunately, Black's Law Dictionary has no legal authority in the United States (or anywhere). If you wish to know more about US law related to bribery of public officials and its relation to campaign contributions, please refer to McDonnell v. United States, Robert L. McCORMICK, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES, etc.

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

        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 3:40pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legality *is* the corruption

          I actually noted the issue you are complaining about - the need of a public official to raise money.

          Its actually hard to prove bribery, the actual crime, not just a dictionary definition (citing Black's Law dictionary over Merriam-Webster isn't giving you a step up in this regard, they are quite similar). In this case, while the congressman is soliciting donations (and we don't know the cost of the Box or the turnout so we don't know there is profit in this), we can't necessarily say the action had a specific goal. Most statutes require intent to influence specific actions, matching bribe to action. Its why lobbying is so open, and why its such a problem that Comcast's Chief Lobbyist isn't reported as such.

          I could work on the definitions, it is true. But I think the core distinction is valid.

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

      • icon
        Bamboo Harvester (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 12:38pm

        Re: Re: Legality *is* the corruption

        So you're saying taxation is hard corruption?

        If anyone other than the government attempts to coerce monies from any member of the citizenry on threat of revocation of their rights and imprisonment, we lock them up and throw away the key.

        Your take on "soft" corruption is subjective. Those indulging in it rarely see it as anything other than a job perk.

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

        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 3:52pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legality *is* the corruption

          Taxation is a power granted to the government as a whole. Their lawmaking power is not, in and of itself, corruption. When it comes to the idea of corruption and the key powers of the government, the way it is used is the determiner of corruption. If they had exempted themselves from taxes, that is one thing. But taxes applied to everyone with the same rules, so it is not an instance of Hard Corruption. See also: Insider trading laws above. See also: Presidential Tax Cut that primarily benefits the specific business structure used by the President.

          Soft corruption isn't an official term, nor is hard corruption. I am merely trying to apply the terms used by Techdirt in the way they were used. Soft corruption is, by its nature, abuse that is more accepted by the elite as 'the way things are done'. Of course it is subjective. The whole point is while it is legal, the combination of factors makes it highly unethical and undermines faith in democracy. Even if there is no corrupt intent or action, the perception of corruption in these actions is damaging.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 3:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legality *is* the corruption

          "If anyone other than the government attempts to coerce monies from any member of the citizenry on threat of revocation of their rights and imprisonment, we lock them up and throw away the key."

          Sometimes.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 10:21am

    business as usual

    "Again, some may suggest that this is "how fundraising is done" in Congress (though, frankly, it's usually a bit less blatant)."

    Quite often, it's more blatant. And more expensive. But if you want to rub elbows with influential politicians (as well as A-list movie stars) in a small intimate setting, then that privilege tends to come with a very hefty price tag.

    "It will cost more than four times the average income in San Francisco to have dinner next to Hillary Clinton and the Clooneys there next month. For two seats at the head table with Clinton, George Clooney and his wife, attorney Amal Clooney, at an April 15 fundraiser, a couple must contribute or raise a whopping $353,400."

    https://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/hillary-clinton-george-clooney-fundraiser-22 1207

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 10:28am

      Re: business as usual

      Quite often, it's more blatant. And more expensive. But if you want to rub elbows with influential politicians (as well as A-list movie stars) in a small intimate setting, then that privilege tends to come with a very hefty price tag.

      But that's not what I'm complaining about here. Expensive fund raisers are quite common, indeed. That's not the issue here.

      The issue is that this is specifically AT AN INDUSTRY EVENT THAT THESE TWO HAVE TREMENDOUS REGULATORY POWER OVER.

      That's the issue.

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

      • icon
        Igualmente69 (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 10:44am

        Re: Re: business as usual

        And it is a big issue. Sadly, this is what you get when you have a "lesser of two evils" mentality. The #resistance people think that they are voting for truth and justice by opposing Trump, then they vote for people like this who don't even try to hide the fact of their corruption. There is little to no outcry because the only alternative is to vote for a third party that isn't corrupt, and people won't do that.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 11:48am

        Re: Re: business as usual

        "The issue is that this is specifically AT AN INDUSTRY EVENT"

        So if this 'pay-to-play' meeting had taken place at some other (non-Hollywood) entertainment venue, let's say the Super Bowl, would that have made the corruption aspect less distasteful?

        Also the $5000 price tag might have some aditional relevance, as the maximum allowed political contribution under US law being $5400 per married couple and $5000 per PAC. Although it's clearly not the same thing, the coincidence is interesting.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 11:15am

    You seem to be very confused about what “benefits the public”.

    Indentured servitude isn’t part of that deal.

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

  • icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 11:18am

    At first I read the headline as "Want to Box At The Grammies With Two Bigshot Congressmen?" I'd sign up for that!

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

  • identicon
    bob, 17 Dec 2018 @ 12:05pm

    what's in the box?

    So cards against humanity is shipping a second expansion box of manure?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 5:15pm

    how the hell can we trust that the various copyright bills that are certain to be under Nadler's control over the next two years (at least) are actually written for the benefit of the public

    We can't, of course. When SOPA died Chris Dodd all but threatened every politician he knew that he'd be taking their meal tickets away in case of another failure.

    We're at the point where the biggest game changer is a Hail Mary occurrence, like the RIAA admitting that life + 95 years is too long. Which isn't saying a lot, but that's just how deep the rabbit shithole goes.

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

  • identicon
    Setting up a go-fund-me, 18 Dec 2018 @ 7:56am

    Publish the link!

    I want the actual link from the article. I'm going to set up a gofundme to raise the $5k plus travel expenses, then broadcast as much of the event as I can get before I get kicked out of the box.

    Better yet, a Kickstarter: sign up and your question gets asked, live.

    Oh, wait. I'm just a voter. Even if I WANTED to go, and had the disposable cash, they'd never let me in the door, because i can only vote once (in my county).

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

  • identicon
    Châu, 21 Dec 2018 @ 6:12pm

    Law and moral

    Always remember 'legal ≠ moral' and 'illegal ≠ immoral'

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


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