Last Wednesday 107 members of the U.S. House sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to revoke net neutrality regulations that have guaranteed that the big ISPs must treat all digital content equally, whatever it is and wherever it’s hosted. Without such rules broadband companies such as AT&T and Comcast can favor one website over another and charge users more to view certain material—such as streaming movies. They can potentially even censor political material they don’t like. In short, net neutrality is the backbone of the open internet we have all come to depend on. Without it, the digital community faces bleak times.
And Republicans want to destroy our thriving Internet culture – so much so that they wrote a letter to Trump’s FCC head lackey urging him to get down to business.
The letter was made public by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Vice Media’s Motherboard has – so far- deciphered 84 of the 107 names (the writing is not always legible and a typed list of signatories was not included in the release) and listed them along with the amount of money each has received from the telecom industry over the years.
Two Missouri members are clearly listed among the telecom toadies who signed the letter:
- Blane Luetkemeyer (R-3), total telecom payola: $105,000
- Billy Long (R-7), total telecom payola: $221,500
Although there are only two Missouri House members whose signatures grace the letter, over the years, there haven’t been too many Missouri GOPers who have been very friendly to the idea of the open internet – and almost all have been liberally rewarded for toeing the telecom line when it comes to net neutrality.
GOP Senator Roy Blunt alone has received $1,283,416 from the big three telecoms over his career (yes, you read that right – over a million dollars). Only John McCain took a bigger payout. And Blunt delivered for his bosses in the past – spouting the usual unsupported twaddle about how net neutrality is bad for jobs and innovation. Jobs. You gotta give it to ol’ Roy – he’s more than willing to mouth whatever predigested magic formula Republicans have decided to use against everything their patrons tell them to oppose whether it makes sense or not.
To be fair, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill has taken over $500,000 dollars from the same folks since she went to Washington. As a report prepared by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) has noted, “the industry’s attempt to gain favor with lawmakers is not partisan. Entrenched telecommunications companies liberally spread money and attention to everyone who holds office.”
So, what did they get from McCaskill? While she supported the nomination of Pai as FCC Chairman and has tried to straddle the issue in the past, she has, as of today, indicated that she will support legislation to restore net neutrality – which, of course, can only pass if Democrats succeed in taking back the Congress in 2018. In the long run, though, McCaskill knows that destroying the Internet is a bad deal – both for her constituents and for her politically – and she’s not nearly as mercenary as her GOP opposite number.
Even though Democrats have benefited from telecom efforts to buy congressional votes, it is nevertheless still true that, as the CRP observes, “alignment with the ISPs is currently drawn along party lines.” Republicans take their obligations to their donors seriously, probably because they get lots more money from them. If you’re curious about how many pieces of dirty silver your Missouri GOP House member has received from the telecom industry as the price for selling out their constituents, you can check the CRP tally for every House and Senate member.