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  (Source: Tristar Pictures)
Lobbyist bribery goes to waste for once, as Rep. Smith is forced to "postpone" SOPA indefinitely

UPDATE: PIPA is "dead"/postponed too... details at the end of the piece.

Over the weekend U.S. President Barack Obama's (D) cabinet hinted that he might veto the pending House's "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) (H.R. 3261) and Senate's "PROTECT IP Act" (PIPA) (S.968) out of concern that the bills Orwellian takedown provisions could damage the legitimate internet economy.  

I. The Rat Returns

With the support of politically enemy-turned-friend House Oversight Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Rep. Eric Cantor(R-Virg.) was compelled to promise to shelve any potential vote in the Republican-controlled House in terms of passing SOPA.  It was finally over -- the months of populist protest online, media criticism, and criticism from the online industry's top innovators like Google Inc. (GOOG) had paid off.  They had won.

Or so they thought.  On Monday support SOPA rose up from the dead, after Rep. Lamar Smith (R- Tex.) -- the bill's author in the House of Representatives -- said he would bring the bill to the floor for minor revisions and a February vote.  That led to the largest online protest that America has ever seen with tens of millions of Americans taking to the internet to post protest message, email their representatives, call their representatives, and sign petitions.

The bold populist outcry seemed to work.  First some Congresspeople jumped ship.  Then more did.

But even yesterday Rep. Smith -- whose office had done its fair share of copyright infringing -- was quoted as dismissing his constituents protest as a "publicity stunt" and vowing to ignore the people and bring the bill to vote.

II. Cornered, SOPA Meets Its End (For Now)

But on Friday afternoon a weay Rep. Smith took to the internet, tail tucked and admitted defeat, agreeing for the first time to shelve the bill.  The key word is he used is "postponed".  So it's fair to say SOPA is dead, but if you've ever played Resident Evil or watched South Park SOPA is a bit like Wesker or Kenny -- it may be dead -- but it will likely return next episode.

Rep. Smith ears shut
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) has finally listened after purposefully ignoring the criticism about SOPA for so long. [Image Source: Know Your Meme]

In his statement Rep. Smith writes:

The problem of online piracy is too big to ignore. American intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs and account for more than 60 percent of U.S. exports. The theft of America’s intellectual property costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs.  Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while American innovators and job creators are under attack.

The online theft of American intellectual property is no different than the theft of products from a store.  It is illegal and the law should be enforced both in the store and online.

The Committee will continue work with copyright owners, Internet companies, financial institutions to develop proposals that combat online piracy and protect America’s intellectual property.  We welcome input from all organizations and individuals who have an honest difference of opinion about how best to address this widespread problem.  The Committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation.

The numbers are debatable, but Rep. Smith is right on one key issue -- online piracy is an issue that needs to be addressed in some form.  Whether it should be big media finding easier ways to distribute content legally online, such as challenging Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) exclusivity contracts and bullying, which limit the number of legal distribution outlets, or the government finding a way to balance the rights of intellectual property holders with the people's right to reasonable justice, there's certainly cause to look for level-handed solutions in the public and private sector.

But at the same time Rep. Smith's statement is problematic as it couples two very different issues -- domestic piracy (sharing copyrighted works illegally via torrents, P2P, streaming, etc.) and foreign piracy.  

Foreign piracy is already a vast sea to navigate on, as it includes everything from stealing proprietary chipmaking technique from American fabs or engine part design from American fighter jets to your everyday bazaar merchant selling phony DVD copies of popular American films.  These kinds of abuses needs to be addressed, but in recent years Congress and the White House have essentially meekly bowed to China -- arguably the biggest single infringer of American goods -- afraid to speak up against it.

So when Rep. Lamar Smith talks about fighting foreign piracy, that's great but SOPA and Congress's past actions have done scant little to challenge infringer nations like China.  What they have done a whole lot to impose Orwellian takedown on the internet and punitive punishment on the American people.

III. Federal Bribery Must be Stopped

All of the piracy debate also overshadows a far greater base issue -- the allowance of blatant bribery in American federal politics.

Anti-streaming lobbyists paid an estimated 10 percent of all active U.S. Senators' combined election costs ($86M USD) and an unspecified amount (like in the high tens to low hundreds of millions of dollars) to the U.S. Congress, according to extensive research.  It's nice to see this kind of blatant bribery attempt fail for once.

But the real issue here is that if the bribery was smaller and the "bought" legislation didn't involve dramatic erosions of rights and free enterprise that SOPA did, the American people probably would have ignored it -- in fact that's what they been doing for a good couple decades now, as lobbying has grown into a flourishing mega-industry in the capital.

bribery pays
It's hard to get anything done in Washington these days without a bribe.
[Image Source: Google Images]

The end result is that while the American taxpayer and small business labor slavishly to pay their tax debt, the corporations with well-heeled lobbyists enjoy "tax holidays" and government grants.  These are kickbacks for bribes, plain as day, but politicians pretty them up with softer speak.

A recent peer-reviewed research study by the University of Kansas' business school showed that for every $1 spent bribing politicians in Washington D.C., corporate donors get an estimated $222 USD in tax exemptions and other financial kickbacks.  This bribery must be recognized and must be put to an end.  It is anti-innovation.  It is anti-freedom.  It is anti-American.

It is a huge problem that Americans must address, as they look back on their victory over SOPA and big media special interests.


PIPA, written by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (very similar to the House's Republican-written SOPA) is also dead or delayed ("postponed").  In a press release Sen. Reid echoes the words of his Republican colleague, Rep. Smith, writing:

In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.

There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.

I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.

The only major difference between Sen. Reid's and Sen. Smith's commentary seems to be little tidbits of party-appropriate rhetoric, designed to pander to their base's sensibilities.

Sen. Reid's uses a "union" analogy, in an effort to sway Democrat voters, while Sen. Smith's focus on "foreign" threats and his vow to "work with... financial institutions" buzz words he clearly hopes will please his voters.

Sources: Lamar Smith, Harry Reid, NPR [$1 lobbyist = $222 tax breaks]

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RE: Here here
By JasonMick on 1/20/2012 6:06:48 PM , Rating: 3
Romney already had a head start over all the other candidates because he ran in 2008 and was able to keep all of the campaign money. He had a 3yr old war chest before most other candidates even considered running.

Did you not even BOTHER to read the link I put?

That Open Secrets page listed the campaign contributions for THIS year alone, by quarter -- Romney was wildly ahead.

Has nothing to do with his "war chest", just as the Obama contributions in that graph have nothing to do with Obama's leftover 2008 "war chest".
Romney already had a head start over all the other candidates because he ran in 2008 and was able to keep all of the campaign money. He had a 3yr old war chest before most other candidates even considered running.
True, but so

Most of the time, one person will hold a fundraiser for a candidate and will require a maximum allowable donation for the candidate and a voluntary donation for the candidate's PAC or the National Party Committee of the candidate. This person, known as a "bundler" will gather all the donations, tie it to the guest list and donate it as one big lump sum to the candidate. So, yes, the donors are almost assuredly real, but most of them are not common people, but instead are the wealthier portion of society that has plenty of money to give the PAC, National Committee, and candidate.

Again you didn't read carefully. I was specifically referring to small $200 or less contributions. A handful of guest list dinners go this small, but most of these contributions are not from these type events.

Typically dinners are an effective technique, but used to collect bigger donations. But even there a special interest can funnel money by giving its employees a matching or greater bonus if they attend and donate.
Romney already had a head start over all the other candidates because he ran in 2008 and was able to keep all of the campaign money. He had a 3yr old war chest before most other candidates even considered running.

True, the RIAA/MPAA is used to milking the system. They did under Bush, they did under Obama. Both Bush and Obama drew the line SOMEWHERE at least in that they wouldn't just let the RIAA/MPAA have completely free reign.

But consider that the RIAA/MPAA are kind of a fringe case.

Yes they are indicative of the general bribery issue, but they're not your average special interest bribers, as can be seen by the 10% of the Senate costs ($86M USD) figure.

Because they're spending more, they're more visible. And they HAVE to spend more than most special interests largely because their objectives are so unpatriotic and alarming.

It'd be like if you wanted the politicians to pass the "Ryrod can kill puppies act" you might have to hand them $80M USD, vs. if you wanted to pass the "Tax breaks for Ryrod's Widgets 'R Us Comp. aka The American Freedom Act of 2022".

Most special interests might pay $1M USD to a few politicians, and then get anywhere from tens to hundreds of millions in tax breaks, gov't contracts, etc.

Or in the case of some special interests like evangelical donors, the idea is to stir up as much controversy as possible to polarize people in order to drive them to your church out of fear. Then you can profit off that fear.

Once enough extra people feel compelled to attend your services religiously you will pull in more millions and let the associate pastor buy his next BMW.

This also helps make sure people don't grow complacent for lack of fear and stop attending your church. In that case your associate pastor might have to downgrade to a Ford Fiesta (horror)....

RE: Here here
By Reclaimer77 on 1/20/12, Rating: -1
RE: Here here
By JasonMick on 1/20/2012 6:53:48 PM , Rating: 3
What's Romney supposed to do? Apparently it takes $900,000,000,000 to run a campaign in this day and age that has a chance of winning, and if that's what he has to do to turn this disaster around, then so be it.

Of course. It's like sure Giaovani: "Sure I murdered Vincenzo, but how else was I supposed to get in the mob."

Well yes Giaovani is right, if you're trying to join a corrupt system you'll have to be just as corrupt -- probably corrupter.

Perhaps you're right. Maybe Romney is only moderately corrupt and not super duper corrupt so he will be unable to beat Obama... there's lots of ways you could look @ it philosophically.

But the bottom line is this, philosophizing aside:
You're either a force of change.
You're a force for the status quo.

Could a TRUE change President be elected? Perhaps not today. But maybe tomorrow. We can only hope.

Americans want change ... look how many voted for Obama. While I admit that on a handful of social issues like repealing don't ask don't tell Obama has been better, overall he's been more of the same, at least in terms of fixating on corporate tax breaks that got him in the White House.

Once Americans wake up and see the "For Sale" sign on the White House lawn and actually start to pay attention to the bribery that goes on, maybe things will get tough enough for lobbyists that their grip weakens.

After all under the current system candidates can legally get a large percentage of money from direct corporate donations. when you can pour out half the campaign funds in open "donations" (bribes), it's a lot easier to hide the other half (say in small untraceable <$200 cash donations), vs. if public outcry and/or laws forced you to try to hid all of it. Could you still funnel some money? Yes. Could you funnel as much? Probably not.

If the pork train dried up, the politicians would have to turn to the PEOPLE for support and hence give a bit more of d@mn about them.

I think the people need to insist on voting for the non-bribed alternative in any election there is one. People can easily find this info on sites Maplight and OpenSecrets.

Start with Congress, then move up to the President. Once the majority of the blatantly corrupt are flushed out, call for a constitutional amendment preventing corporations from bribing as defined by corporations funding candidates, pressuring employees to fund candidates, or sending bribes through a lobbyist, forcing these payout to go underground and marginalizing them.

Even many lobbyists I talk to off the record support such an idea.

Remember, part of the problem is just that politicians are so devoted to certain special interests that it actually HURTS some businesses -- these businesses have to hire their own lobbyists to try to counter. (e.g. nuclear v. solar, "carbon credits" firms v. automakers etc.)

Many of those involved in this system don't like it, even. It's just that like you, they're skeptical in that they miss that there's clear paths to change via education and responsible voting.

It's basic behaviorism. Politicians may be a bit thick at times like a dog, but if you teach your dog that when it whines for food, it doesn't get fed, it learns not to whine. You can teach the politicians. When they take bribes, don't vote for them or vote them out if they're already in office. Over time they'll get the message. They're not entirely dumb -- just exploitive.

RE: Here here
By Reclaimer77 on 1/20/2012 7:18:23 PM , Rating: 1
Perhaps you're right. Maybe Romney is only moderately corrupt and not super duper corrupt so he will be unable to beat Obama... there's lots of ways you could look @ it philosophically.

I don't know if he is or isn't. But I'll tell you one thing, the fact that other Republican's are bashing their own candidate because he pulled himself up and made something of himself, things that this party is SUPPOSED to stand for ( capitalism ), is abhorrent to me and scares me. It's seriously like they're trying to hand Obama the election already.

I'm enjoying this discussion, and I appreciate how much writing you're doing, old friend. I guess just talking about this stuff is depressing me and I can't reciprocate as much as I should. You're probably right, I dunno. I'm gonna go out and have a drink.

RE: Here here
By rdawise on 1/21/2012 12:50:48 AM , Rating: 3
I'm sorry but "pulled himself up"? Really? Because like time I checked his father wasn't doing too bad. I very much doubt how hard he how to "pull himself" up.

RE: Here here
By Reclaimer77 on 1/21/2012 1:06:54 AM , Rating: 2
Paris Hilton's father was doing pretty good too. Compare her life and achievements to Romney's. Just because your parents are well off doesn't mean everything you've ever done in your life is because of that, or all for nothing.

"Pulled himself up" is an expression. He could have pissed his life away living the good life, like several Kennedy's we know (yet the Left still idolize). You can flap your gums all day long about how terrible it is to be a CEO and run companies and organize businesses, I'm not hearing it. Those are the marks of a productive member of society and a responsible human being. Those are GOOD qualities, occupy crowd be damned.

Maybe you should Wiki him up and see all the things he's done. Only an idiot would say he hasn't worked hard to get where he is.

RE: Here here
By dark matter on 1/22/2012 4:00:13 AM , Rating: 2
Please put the hyperbole away. The gulf between CEO and their workforce is untenable. Not only that, but the directors still get their bonus, even if they fail (banks).

Not only that but remuneration in the board room is voted for by the directors peers, at the same time they are subduing domestic wages and offshoring work.

You talk about CEO's being productive members of society and RESPONSIBLE then you're utterly deluded. Greed is the motivation of CEO's these days, nothing more. You can flap your gums all day long, but the truth is there to see.

RE: Here here
By Reclaimer77 on 1/22/2012 2:09:32 PM , Rating: 2
he gulf between CEO and their workforce is untenable.

I'm one of these crazy kooks who still believes that anyone can be a CEO (or whatever they want) in America. The pursuit of happiness is, actually, guaranteed in this country. Sorry but that even applies to people and jobs that you, personally, have a problem with.

Greed is the motivation of CEO's these days (sweeping blanket statement)

Greed is a human condition. Our attempt to asses it as being inherently "bad" is a flaw. One that is quite frankly born out of ignorance. Everyone is greedy. Greed isn't just financial. It manifests itself in all shapes and sizes.

You're a small minded immature person. You want to believe that everyone with money is a bad person. This is how a child rationalizes the world.

RE: Here here
By teacherlee on 1/20/2012 7:34:57 PM , Rating: 2
Did you think it was such a disaster when Bush was in office?

RE: Here here
By Uncle on 1/20/2012 10:34:15 PM , Rating: 2
You better check the fine details about Romney and his money. He was part of the wall street gang.Now you want him in charge of the chicken coup.

RE: Here here
By Ryrod on 1/20/2012 6:28:42 PM , Rating: 2
Did you not even BOTHER to read the link I put?
That Open Secrets page listed the campaign contributions for THIS year alone, by quarter -- Romney was wildly ahead.

No, I read the link, but I may have misunderstood your argument.

I was simply trying to say that Romney already had money to spend to get (or buy, your choice of verb) a wide base of supporters through calling banks, advertisements, etc. This was even before he started raising campaign funds.

I was trying to allude to the fact that Romney had the money and was spending it, before he even started collecting donations this year, while other candidates were trying to raise money and organize their spending strategy at the same time. It would be something similar to Romney starting the race with his pants on and running in the right direction, while all the other candidates were still trying to put their pants on and figure out where to go.

Again you didn't read carefully. I was specifically referring to small $200 or less contributions.

You are correct. I did misread that part of your statement. For some reason, I skipped over your statement "We'll never know, because cash contributions under $200 are virtually untraceable."

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