The story behind the SOPA–PIPA story is Money, lots and lots of it.
Digby linked to this article earlier this week, but I wanted to dig into one of the side pockets of this reporting.
We know that lobbying involves money; we lose track of just how much. And when the amount is really really large, so is the effect. The SOPA–PIPA story gives us a window into just how much movie & recording industry money is involved, and what that money actually buys.
Digby pulled out this quote from the article (my emphasis):
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the chair of the powerful House budget committee announced on January 9 that he would oppose the bill (after taking nearly $300,000 from pro-SOPA donors).I may be wrong, but $300,000 seems a very large amount for a House candidate, who only has to carpet-bomb his district (not the whole state) in case of a challenge. OpenSecrets:
The cost of winning a seat in Congress [is] more than $1 million in the House[.]For example, the most money raised so far in this year's Oregon races is $1 million by Republican Greg Walden, who has a literally no-money challenger. (Sounds like "walking around money" to my cynical ear). The heated race to replace David Wu (OR-1) has Bonamici and Cornilles each raising about $500,000 to date. Paul Ryan raised two-thirds of that amount from one industry — entertainment & digital property-rights barons.
Back to the Mother Jones article. It starts (again, my emphasis and some reparagraphing):
Only two American industries have ever had the clout in Washington to force Congress to ban Wall Street from trading futures on their products. The first was onions—futures trading in no one's favorite root vegetable was banned in the 1950s[.] ...Think for a minute about Paul Ryan's $300,000 (one House district, though Ryan's a favorite with Thank You Street), then consider how much "walking around money" got spread around the whole of Congress by just these three:
The other ban is more recent: In 2010, at the urging of the Motion Picture Association of America [MPAA], one of Capitol Hill's most powerful lobbies, Congress banned movie futures as part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform bill. The big studios took on Wall Street—which isn't known for losing lobbying fights—and won.
So this month, when all the big entertainment companies joined forces with Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and the US Chamber of Commerce, the nation's foremost big business lobby, to fight for sweeping anti-piracy legislation, it was almost a foregone conclusion that they would get what they wanted.
■ MPAA, representing all Hollywood
■ Norquist's main anti-tax shop
■ The "U.S." Chamber of Commerce
About just the MPAA:
Movies, music, and publications are among America's most valuable exports—more than $30 billion in 2007—and the industry has a lot of pull in Congress."A lot of pull" means a lot of bought votes. The MPAA could give $1 million to each member of Congress and not break 2% of that $30 billion yearly total.
More (again, much reparagraphing):
Nearly half the Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), signed on to the Senate version. In the House, 32 representatives from both parties—including Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the fourth-ranking House Democrat, and Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairman of the powerful judiciary committee—backed the entertainment industry's proposal.That "supporters and opponents" link is an eye-opener. The article also implies that "Silicon Valley" (code for high tech generally) is about to up its "sell".
(You can see supporters and opponents of the bills over at ProPublica's website.)
Maplight.org found that since the beginning of the 2010 election cycle, SOPA's 32 sponsors took in nearly four times as much in campaign contributions from the entertainment industry than from the software and Internet industries (nearly $2 million versus a little over $500,000).
As the rest of the article shows, this is not about the open Internet vs. property principles. This is about two high-dollar top-of-food-chain predators, dueling industries — "Silicon Valley" & "Hollywood" — duking it out to protect their big-river revenue streams. Issues-shmissues, just show them the bucks.
(Doubt me? An experiment: Forget what business Google is in, then ask yourself — Would Google protect the Internet if destroying it — just a little — would double its profit?)
I'll leave you with one thought. There are two ways to see Al Franken's cosponsorship of PIPA. One is that he's ex-Hollywood, so by supporting PIPA he's just loyally voting his roots; all that MPAA money is just a happy by-product.
The other is this — all that PIPA money is necessary for a Senate candidate who has to fund a state-wide re-election fight; and this "Hollywood roots" stuff is just the cover story — the smoke screen that confuses his base, one that might otherwise think he's selling out his supposed "progressive principles" to harvest the bucks.
In the first scenario, Franken's an innocent; Stuart Smalley perhaps. In the second, he's very very smart, and willing to risk the Internet if he thinks his progressive base won't notice.
Which is it? You could call him and ask — 202-224-5641 or 651-221-1016. But whichever explanation is true, I'll bet you hear the same song and dance.
On the other hand, by calling, you could remind him that he's putting his precious Son-of-Wellstone branding at risk. If he loses that, he'll have to get all his funding from his Hollywood friends. Not a good outcome for Mr. Franken, and something to bargain with when his PIPA vote is next up for ... "lobbying."
(I'll save talking about Obama and the White House Dems for another time. Let's just say they're listening to the song of big dollars as well.)