Cheap Backscratchers

by digby

I've written many times that I don't think money alone explains why the telcom corporations are so adamant about getting retroactive immunity for their illegal deeds. (At least if it has to do with the cases we know about ...) But there is little doubt that some politicians are willing to sell out the constitution for absolute chump change:

House Democrats who flipped their votes to support retroactive immunity for telecom companies in last week’s FISA bill took thousands of dollars more from phone companies than Democrats who consistently voted against legislation with an immunity provision, according to an analysis by

In March, the House passed an amendment that rejected retroactive immunity. But last week, 94 Democrats who supported the March amendment voted to support the compromise FISA legislation, which includes a provision that could let telecom companies that cooperated with the government’s warrantless electronic surveillance off the hook.


The members who voted yes on June 20 received, on average, $9,659 from the big three phone companies while those who opposed the bill received an average of $4,810, MAPLight found.

The article duly notes that money isn't the only reason legislators vote the way they do, but it really doesn't get any more stark than this. Those who voted for it were, at least in some respect, either bribed or rewarded for voting to give their benefactors immunity for their possible crimes after the fact. There is no national security issue here. No overriding principle. It's purely to shield corporations from liability for knowingly violating the constitution.

The next time an administration wants to engage industry in lawbreaking for their own purposes --- or reward their good friends, for that matter --- all they will have to do is issue a "ruling" saying that the government is requesting they do it and these corporations will have a precedent, written into law, to use as an argument for why they shouldn't be held liable. What an awesome racket that will be for everyone. Except the people, of course, who will pay the price in loss of civil liberties, defective products and unsafe infrastructure.