Though hardly surprising to anyone paying attention to the day-to-day workings of Congress; it's still a bit shocking to witness the blatant correlation between campaign donations and the votes made by congressional recipients of those donations. There is no honor among politicians. Whatever egalitarian or patriotic aspirations one enters Congress with; every day served on Capitol Hill effectively erodes those lofty aspirations a little more until finally the only thing left is a fading vestige, and a new impetus to perpetuate the proverbial gravy train, even if it means lying to constituents and dialing for dollars three or four hours per day.
Of the top 10 defense industry money recipients, only one U.S. House member — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia) — voted to end the program.
The numbers are starkly evident. The narrowly defeated Amash Amendment voted on in the House on Wednesday was a virtual road map to congress critters who received the most cash from the defense industry. I guess the only surprising element of this whole process was that one member, Virginia Democrat Jim Moran, actually bucked the system by both taking in enough money to make the top ten recipients list, and then stubbornly turning around and voting for the amendment anyway. Some would call it chutzpa. I would call it playing the game by following your heart. Let's just hope Rep. Moran doesn't suffer repercussions over his well-placed vote.
The vote to defund Section 215 of the unholy Patriot Act was very close, 217-205, the results of which portends an extended fight in the halls of Congress. Although the White House and the intelligence community would like to think it is over... it's not. This defeat was not the end -- but rather merely the opening salvo in a nascent but epochal struggle for American's soul. As it stands, those 217 “no” voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 “yes” voters.
That’s the new analysis by MapLight, a Berkeley-based non-profit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request. The investigation shows that defense cash was a better predictor of a member’s vote on the Amash amendment than party affiliation. House members who voted to continue the massive phone-call-metadata spy program, on average, raked in 122 percent more money from defense contractors than those who voted to dismantle it.Better than 2-1. I guess the price for selling out doesn't come cheap.
Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $12.97 million in donations for a two-year period ending December 31, 2012, according to the analysis, which MapLight performed with financing data from OpenSecrets. Lawmakers who voted to continue the NSA dragnet-surveillance program averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765.
Wired.com has the story:
“How can we trust legislators to vote in the public interest when they are dependent on industry campaign funding to get elected? Our broken money and politics system forces lawmakers into a conflict of interest between lawmakers’ voters and their donors,” said Daniel G. Newman, MapLight’s president and co-founder.
For example, Amash got $1,400 — ranking him in the bottom 50 for the two-year period. On the flip side, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-California) scored $526,600 to lead the House in defense contributions. He voted against Amash.Here's a (pdf.) link to a full list of members who received defense industry money, and how they voted.
Of the 26 House members who voted and did not receive any defense financing, 16 voted for the Amash amendment.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) voted against the measure. He ranked 15th in defense earnings with a $131,000 take. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) also voted against Amash. Pelosi took in $47,000 from defense firms over the two-year period.Here's a link to Glenn Greenwald's eloquent takedown of the Democratic establishment responsible for the amendment's defeat:Democratic establishment unmasked: prime defenders of NSA bulk spying
In total, ninety-four Republicans voted for the amendment as did 111 Democrats.
Remember when Democrats used to object so earnestly when Dick Cheney would scream "The Terrorists!" every time someone tried to rein in the National Security State just a bit and so modestly protect basic civil liberties? How well they have learned: now, a bill to ban the government from collecting the telephone records of all Americans, while expressly allowing it to collect the records of anyone for whom there is evidence of wrongdoing, is - in the language of the House Democratic Leadership - a bill to Protect The Terrorists.And here's a link to Nancy Pelosi's particular role in the kabosh from Foreign Policy Magazine: How Nancy Pelosi Saved the NSA Surveillance Program
"Pelosi had meetings and made a plea to vote against the amendment and that had a much bigger effect on swing Democratic votes against the amendment than anything Alexander had to say," said the source, keeping in mind concerted White House efforts to influence Congress by Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. "Had Pelosi not been as forceful as she had been, it's unlikely there would've been more Democrats for the amendment."The former Speaker should be ashamed of herself.