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Follow the money on the FISA vote

Berkeley-based MAPLight.org — a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks relationships between campaign contributions and Congressional votes — found some interesting figures related to last week’s vote on H.R. 6304, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, which makes changes to the 1978 law dealing with wiretapping of the sort in which the Bush Administration secretly engaged for several years. Despite criticisms that the bill gave telecommunications companies a free pass for having cooperated with the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance, it passed on a vote of 293-129.

And although the House in March had passed an amendment that rejected retroactive immunity for these companies, 94 House Democrats who’d rejected immunity back then decided to vote for last week’s bill.

Lo and behold, MAPLight.org finds that Verizon, AT&T and Sprint gave about twice as much money — $9,659 on average — to House members (105 Democrats and 188 Republicans) who voted for last week’s bill as the amount — $4,810 on average — that went to those who voted against it (128 Democrats and 1 Republican) from January 2005 through March 2008.

In the greater Bay Area, those three telecom companies gave $24,500 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; $11,000 to Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater; $9,000 to Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; and $2,000 to Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton — all of whom were among the 94 Democrats who voted against immunity in March but voted for last week’s bill.

Did anyone base their votes purely on campaign contributions? Almost certainly not, given those amounts; see my earlier post for Tauscher’s and McNerney’s rationales for supporting the bill. But the moniey couldn’t have hurt either, and when you look at the aggregate and see the “yes” voters got twice the telecom contributions as the “no” voters, you can see which way the wind blows.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • jimijames

    Pelosi still stinks, but jeez, what’s wrong with you Jerry? Ya sold out for a lousy 2 grand??