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June 9, 2008
Finance, Favors and FISA
by David Hutchins

VOICEOVER: This week, the Senate decided whether corporate telecom firms like AT&T and Verizon should receive retroactive immunity for cooperating with US intelligence agencies to spy on Americans. Forty lawsuits are pending against the telecoms for spying. Retroactive immunity would render most of the suits moot. The plaintiffs allege the Bush administration and telecoms spied on millions of ordinary Americans without a warrant—a violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. One AT&T whistleblower described in detail how AT&T vacuumed up billions of domestic, Internet, and telephone communications and sent them to the National Security Agency. On the House side, the bill granting retroactive immunity easily passed by a ratio of two to one. Ninety-four House Democrats who reversed their earlier position and in the end voted in favor of immunity got an average of $8,359 from telecom PACs since 2005. Which brings us to the Senate. Barack Obama, who has been under a lot of criticism for doing a 180 and supporting some form of immunity, has received nearly $206,000 in political contributions from the telecom industry so far this year. His rival, John McCain, who also supports immunity, has received $356,000. In total, the telecom industry has given $63 million in political contributions to Republican congressmen and senators since 1990 [and] nearly $49 million to Democrats. Now the final vote is tallied. So keep in mind the money behind the political maneuvering.

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), SUPPORTS BLANKET IMMUNITY FOR TELECOM COMPANIES: I would like to say now, with respect to the amendments, I oppose each of them. And I urge that the Senate pass a HR6304 without amendment so that the delicate compromise which serves as best it can to protect national security and privacy and civil liberties.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) received $51,500 from telecom in 2008 so far. Received $102,200 from telecom since 2002.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SUPPORTS BLANKET IMMUNITY FOR TELECOM COMPANIES: Just yesterday the White House reiterated its intention to veto any FISA bill that’s amended to strip or weaken liability protection for the telecommunications companies. This means that the adoption of any one of these amendments will take down the entire bill. And any law that makes it less likely that these companies will cooperate with us in the future is a law that makes it harder to protect Americans from terrorist attack.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) received $20,050 from telecom in 2008 so far. Received $91,451 from telecom since 2002.

Top 20 senators receiving telecom donations in 2008 and their FISA vote

John McCain (R) $365,955 ABSENT
Hillary Clinton (D-NY) $246,747 Voted AGAINST immunity
Barack Obama (D) $220,789 Voted FOR immunity
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) $51,500 Voted FOR immunity
Ted Stevens (R-AK) $41,400 Voted FOR immunity
Susan Collins (R-ME) $35,850 Voted FOR immunity
Mark Pryor (D-AR) $32,350 Voted FOR immunity
Max Baucus (D-MT) $28,000 Voted FOR immunity
Gordon H Smith (R-OR) $27,750 Voted FOR immunity
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) $26,700 Voted FOR immunity
Roger Wicker (R-MS) $26,600 Voted FOR immunity
John Sununu (R-NH) $24,600 Voted FOR immunity
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) $21,800 Voted AGAINST immunity
Dick Durbin (D-IL) $20,850 Voted AGAINST immunity
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) $20,250 Voted FOR immunity
Byron Dorgan L (D-ND) $20,250 Voted AGAINST immunity
Mary Landrieu (D-LA) $15,750 Voted FOR immunity
John Cornyn (R-TX) $15,250 Voted FOR immunity
Pat Roberts (R-KS) $14,250 Voted FOR immunity
Sam Brownback, Sam (R-KS) $14,200 Voted FOR immunity
Source:, U.S. Congress

Congress grants immunity to telecoms for illegally eavesdropping on Americans

July 9, 2008


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