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Termination comes after RIAA and MPAA "went ballistic"

While corruption in Congress is nothing new (see: Lincoln), with the rise of modern lobbying things have reached impressive new proportions, as chronicled on OpenSecretsMaplight, and other well-researched online voter resources.  

I. MPAA, RIAA Get Republican Staffer Fired

One of the most active lobbying influences in Washington D.C. have been media corporations, represented by trade groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).  Recent estimates indicate that big media paid 10 percent of members of Congress's total reelection budget in the previous election cycle -- and the payments almost paid off as big media's Orwellian SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) was only struck down in the eleventh hour amid a storm of citizen lashback.

Now comes word that a top traditional conservative (or in some source's words "Libertarian-leaning") staffer on the Republican Study Committee (RSC) has been terminated for his stance on copyright reform.

The fired staffer's name is Derek Khanna, and he turned heads in mid-November when he authored a pro-reform memo [background], which was thoroughly vetted and published by the RSC, a key advisory body to the conservative wing of federal Republican Representatives in Congress.

RIAA Steal a Car
In his memo, Derek Khanna took issue with the RIAA's traditional rhetoric that piracy is a crime worth punishing with fines of up to $150,000 USD per song. [Image Source: RIAA]

In the memo (available below), Mr. Khanna argued that punishments of up to $150,000 USD per work for private citizens found guilty of filesharing are grossly out of line with reality.
Republican Study Committee Intellectual Property Brief

According to TechDirt's sources:

As soon as [the Khanna memo] was published, the MPAA and RIAA apparently went ballistic and hit the phones hard, demanding that the RSC take down the report. They succeeded.

RSC director subsequently complained that the memo had been published without adequate review, denying that the vetting process (which did occur) was sufficient.  He essentially bowed the RIAA and MPAA demands, disavowing the Libertarian/reformist memo.

Representative Steve Scalise (R-Lous.) recalls being "approached by several Republican members of Congress who were upset [about Khan's memo]", according to The Washington Examiner and ArsTechnica.  Among those representatives (according to The Washington Examiner) was Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who according to The Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets) received more money from the music industry than any other Republican Congressional candidate.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Funded by the music industry, Rep. Blackburn demanded Mr. Khanna be sacked for his comments, which offended her corporate masters. [Image Source: AP]

In the wake of the not-so-invisible hand exerting its influence on the elected officials, Rep. Scalise reportedly successfully pushed the RSC to fire Mr. Khanna, who will not be returning when Congress reconvenes in January.

II. Disavowing the Conservative Wing to Placate Special Interests

The move potentially puts the end to the career in the Republican party of the prominent-tech savvy 24-year-old, who many viewed as among the faces of young conservatism in the party.  Active in Republican politics during his undergraduate education at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Mr. Khanna's first official post was working as an advisor to Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Mr. Khanna has international experience, having studied in the Middle East, and was a key advisor to the RSC in cybersecurity with his resume [LinkedIn] citing his interest in "building computers and beta testing software" and experience in "C++, Backtrack, Python, Sql, Java, Dreamweaver/Photoshop, statistical modeling".

Derek Khanna
Derek Khanna, former RSC staffer [Image Source: ArsTechnica/Derek Khanna]

The firing represents a key schism in the Republican ranks.  After all, Mr. Khanna may be singled out as the sacrificial lamb in the face of RIAA and MPAA wrath, but his sentiments were clearly shared to an extent by fellow staffers who vetted the memo.  

Conservative authors and IP analysts Chris Sprigman and Kal Raustiala echoed Mr. Khanna's sentiments in a post-election commentary, suggesting the Republican Party shift to a position of copyright reform to court young voters and libertarians.  Likewise, Jerry Brito, a scholar at the conservative/libertarian Mercatus Center think-tank, has just published "Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess", a book which was honored by a special discussion panel by another top conservative/libertarian think-tank, The Cato Institute.

In other words, Reps. Scalise and Blackburn may have succeeded in firing one voice of reform, but their actions are dividing the Republican Party from its conservative/reformist backers.  In that regard the copyright reform question is perhaps a microcosm of the more macroscopic search for identity and the balance of special interests with principles that is occurring among Republicans on The Hill.

Sources: The Washington Examiner, ArsTechnica, TechDirt

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Fascism, anyone?
By Motoman on 12/7/2012 12:25:40 PM , Rating: 5
Don't worry about Big Brother or Little Sister. The Media Mafia is the one calling the shots.

Here's how we fix it:

1. Outlaw lobbying
2. Massive patent and copyright reform
3. Oust all existing congresscritters and elect into them anew.
3a. Preferably after outlawing political parties, but that's not necessarily germaine to this issue.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By retrospooty on 12/7/2012 12:41:44 PM , Rating: 5
5. Term limits.

So many of them make ALL decisions based on getting re-elected and not on what is best for the country.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By Dr of crap on 12/7/2012 12:57:46 PM , Rating: 5
You have as good a chance as paying $2 for gas again!


They do not vote as their electors want - only "along party lines" - epic fail!

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By Amedean on 12/8/2012 7:28:12 PM , Rating: 1
About those term that not a bandaid on a broken arm. Its subsidizing poor citizenry.

When the politician is a weasel and yet he get reelected over, and over....what does that say about the voter? Its like that analogy of the bar whore complaining about only meeting bad men, yet she is attracted to assholes!

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By Omega215D on 12/9/2012 12:20:33 AM , Rating: 2
Sadly this is a pretty accurate description of how the average citizen thinks.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By Low Gravity on 12/10/2012 11:53:40 AM , Rating: 1
Ill fix your analogy for you:

Its like a bar whore complaining about only meeting bad men except the bar is the only place to meet people in town and she only has two people to choose from and they are both assholes.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By tayb on 12/10/2012 9:30:14 AM , Rating: 3
Term limits will make the problem worse. At least now they are somewhat responsible to the electorate and have the fear of being removed from office as motivation. With term limits these guys will have a couple of years to do just whatever the heck they want with absolutely no repercussions.

The only way to fix Congress is to remove the money and there are lots of ways to do that.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By Nutzo on 12/7/2012 1:43:41 PM , Rating: 4
Simpler solution:

1. Limit campaign contributions to registered voters only. No Corporate money, no Union money, no foreign money, etc.

2. Full discloser of all donations, and the requirement that the don’t vote on any legislation that would help large donors, under the penalty of being kicked out of office.

Will never happen, as they LIKE all the money lobbying brings in.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By polishvendetta on 12/7/2012 3:28:56 PM , Rating: 2
I'd like to see something akin to inside trading, similar to #2.

If a campaign contribution is over x% of your over all campaign donations or it exceeds a certain threshhold you are no longer allowed to vote for issues impacting those parties.

Also this should be tracked year over year or elcetion over election so a group couldnt donate a billion dollars to someone just to have them vote for issues the next cycle.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By Rukkian on 12/10/2012 2:31:43 PM , Rating: 3
I know that any government employee or even contractors are not allowed to take anything from a company they will do business with.

I was at IT security conference, and a few of the guys I hung with were government contractors. They could not even put in for raffles by companies they may do business with. There was one company giving away a Harley, and each of them did enter, but just said if they won, they could just not give any business to that company.

Why is it that all other governement workers cannot even take a McDonalds lunch from a potential business contact, but congressmen (who make the laws) can do whatever they want.

I don't see why it would be any different. If you take any money that came from in any way from a company, you could not vote on anything for that would effect that company.

I think to get rid of lobbying, you would also have to get rid of the corporate tax rate (or at least make it a low flat rate with no loopholes). That way you cannot say they need a voice, since the laws should not effect them. In the end we all pay the corporate taxes one way or another.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By sweetca on 12/7/12, Rating: 0
RE: Fascism, anyone?
By FastEddieLB on 12/8/2012 1:10:46 AM , Rating: 2
3a. Preferably after outlawing political parties

It'll never happen. Even if political parties are abolished, they'll rise again in another form because people gravitate toward the like-minded. Not allowing political party titles would help a lot, forcing people to think and pay attention when they watch politics, but somehow, some way, political parties will always exist.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By inperfectdarkness on 12/8/2012 6:37:48 AM , Rating: 2
SimplEST solution:

1. Reverse the order of the primary and secondary elections. Vote for PARTY in the primary, and CANDIDATE (previously-declared party affiliation before primary election) in the secondary.

Candidates cannot shift party affiliations after the week before primary elections (not that people would vote for them anyways, as said candidates would be flip-floppers).

Legitimate 3rd parties? Here we come!

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By Rob749s on 12/9/2012 8:58:37 PM , Rating: 2

"Our politicians do not serve us; they serve the multinational corporations that pay them. It's time to change that. Let's end the corporate takeover of our government".

You guys should look into this.

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By GotThumbs on 12/10/2012 10:29:12 AM , Rating: 2
Wasn't Obama going to take on item number 1? Just another failure.

I do agree with all your points, but maybe the best thing would be to stop buying music and put the record industry on its knees.

We have the power, but need to act as one. I doubt it will ever happen. Americans tend to have a short attention span. Sad but its true.

Best wishes on the next four years,

RE: Fascism, anyone?
By NellyFromMA on 12/10/2012 2:49:42 PM , Rating: 2
Lobbying needs reform, not banning. Banning it in its existing form essentially.

Lobbying actually originates from a very real peopel for individuals and, more likely now, groups of people who want their common specific issues (special interest) heard.

What there probably should be is a form of cap on money corporations are allowed to spend on hiring / employing lobbyists. Good luck with that though; donors and public officials won't be happy with those results. Hence, why only the people talk about it, politicians will never consider legislation that upsets friendly lobbyists, even if it means upsetting their own constituents. They can't be re-elected if the donations dry up.

"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot

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