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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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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.


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