This week, Congress passed a resolution that would allow internet service providers to sell their users’ browsing history to marketers – and the lawmakers who voted for it collected more than $5.35 million in campaign contributions from the Internet & Telecom industry.
If President Trump signs the measure into law, internet users everywhere may have to opt out of having their information sold, internet privacy advocates say.
Here’s a more infuriating data point: The lawmakers who voted for the anti-privacy bill received more campaign cash from the telecom industry than the lawmakers who voted against it.
As reported in Vocativ, the author of the resolution, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), has pulled in almost $700,000 from the industry since 2004. It doesn’t end with Blackburn, though.
The telecom industry is a big one, encompassing corporate heavyweights like Comcast, Charter, and Time Warner Cable, and trade groups like the Cellular Telecom and Internet Association and The Internet and Television Association. During the 2016 election cycle alone, industry PACs and employees chipped in more than $1.6 million to the senators and $3.7 million to the representatives who voted for bill.*
This amounts to an average of roughly $40,000 to each senator who voted for the resolution – about $10,000 more than they contributed to those who voted no, according to Represent.Us analysis of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The largest average contribution in the House, however, went to those who did not vote on the resolution at all: almost $29,000, a number pulled upward by Speaker Paul Ryan’s haul, which came close to $100,000. And while high-dollar donations to the speaker are nothing new, skipping the vote might make sense for members of Congress caught between industry contributors backing the measure and constituents opposing it. By and large, Americans don’t appear to have a lot of faith in internet marketers. In a 2015 Pew poll, for example, 76 percent of respondents said they were not confident that online advertisers would keep user records “private and secure.”
And campaign contributions are in many ways just the tip of the influence iceberg in the post-Citizens United world. The telecom industry is also a lobbying titan: it spent almost $88 million trying to influence Washington during the 2016 cycle. Almost one-sixth of that total comes from a single corporation, Comcast, the nation’s top broadband internet provider, which splashed more than $14 million on lobbying last year. In total, 560 lobbyists reported working on telecom industry issues in 2016.