The 28 House members who lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to drop net neutrality this week have received more than twice the amount in campaign contributions from the broadband sector than the average for all House members.
These lawmakers, including the top House leadership, warned the FCC that regulating broadband like a public utility “harms” providers, would be “fatal to the Internet,” and could “limit economic freedom.”
According to research provided Friday by Maplight, the 28 House members received, on average, $26,832 from the “cable & satellite TV production & distribution” sector over a two-year period ending in December. According to the data, that’s 2.3 times more than the House average of $11,651.
What’s more, one of the lawmakers who told the FCC that he had “grave concern” (PDF) about the proposed regulation took more money from that sector than any other member of the House. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) was the top sector recipient, netting more than $109,000 over the two-year period, the Maplight data shows.
Dan Newman, cofounder and president of Maplight, the California research group that reveals money in politics, said the figures show that “it’s hard to take seriously politicians’ claims that they are acting in the public interest when their campaigns are funded by companies seeking huge financial benefits for themselves.”
Signing a letter to the FCC along with Walden, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, were three other key members of the same committee: Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), Robert Latta (R-OH), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Over the two-year period, Upton took in $65,000, Latta took $51,000, and Blackburn took $32,500.
In a letter (PDF) those representatives sent to the FCC two days before Thursday’s raucous FCC net neutrality hearing, the four wrote that they had “grave concern” over the FCC’s consideration of “reclassifying Internet broadband service as an old-fashioned ‘Title II common carrier service.'”
The letter added that a switchover “harms broadband providers, the American economy, and ultimately broadband consumers, actually doing so would be fatal to the Internet as we know it.”
Not every one of the 28 members who publicly lobbied the FCC against net neutrality in advance of Thursday’s FCC public hearing received campaign financing from the industry. One representative took no money: Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV).
In all, the FCC received at least three letters from House lawmakers with 28 signatures urging caution on classifying broadband as a telecommunications service, which would open up the sector to stricter “common carrier” rules, according to letters the members made publicly available.
The US has long applied common carrier status to the telephone network, providing justification for universal service obligations that guarantee affordable phone service to all Americans and other rules that promote competition and consumer choice.
Some consumer advocates say that common carrier status is needed for the FCC to impose strong network neutrality rules that would force ISPs to treat all traffic equally, not degrading competing services or speeding up Web services in exchange for payment. ISPs have argued that common carrier rules would saddle them with too much regulation and would force them to spend less on network upgrades and be less innovative.
Of the 28 House members signing on to the three letters, Republicans received, on average, $59,812 from the industry over the two-year period compared to $13,640 for Democrats, according to the Maplight data.
Another letter (PDF) sent to the FCC this week from four top members of the House, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), argued in favor of cable companies:
“We are writing to respectfully urge you to halt your consideration of any plan to impose antiquated regulation on the Internet, and to warn that implementation of such a plan will needlessly inhibit the creation of American private sector jobs, limit economic freedom and innovation, and threaten to derail one of our economy’s most vibrant sectors,” they wrote.
Over the two-year period, Boehner received $75,450; Cantor got $80,800; McCarthy got $33,000; and McMorris Rodgers got $31,500.
The third letter (PDF) forwarded to the FCC this week was signed by 20 House members. “We respectfully urge you to consider the effect that regressing to a Title II approach might have on private companies’ ability to attract capital and their continued incentives to invest and innovate, as well as the potentially negative impact on job creation that might result from any reduction in funding or investment,” the letter said.
Here are the 28 lawmakers who lobbied the FCC this week and their reported campaign contributions:
|HOUSE MEMBER||CONTRIBUTIONS FROM CABLE INTERESTS|
|Cathy McMorris Rodgers||$31,500|