Cyber-bribers and netizens take note: Congress is in session — and after President Obama plugged it in his State of the Union speech, legislation regulating the internet may soon be passed. One of the most prominent players, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), is retiring in 2014, and as Brian Fung of the National Journal reports:
Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has long championed of such a measure. He was one of four cosponsors last year on a Senate cybersecurity bill—the Cybersecurity Act of 2012—that ultimately was rejected by Republicans, business groups, and privacy advocates. Rockefeller was so frustrated by the legislative defeat that he began writing letters to Fortune 500 CEOs, asking them to describe their companies’ state of cyberattack readiness.
The bill that Lieberman and Collins proposed last year was pilloried by civil-liberties watchdogs like the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which argued its language was far too broad and opened the door to potential abuse of consumer information. Critics of the Lieberman-Collins legislation disliked provisions that put spy agencies in the lead on cybersecurity. Changes made to the bill in mid-July gave a greater role to civilian agencies, helping to ease some of those criticisms, but the bill still failed to clear the Senate.
Rockefeller’s position on the Commerce Committee has been lucrative before. Telecom multinational AT&T (third) has given the Senator $62,000 over his career, and Verizon Communications (fifth) has donated $53,000 — even though, as Ryan Singel at Wired wrote in 2007:
[P]rior to 2007, contributions to Rockefeller from company executives at AT&T and Verizon were mostly non-existent.
But that changed around the same time that the companies began lobbying Congress to grant them retroactive immunity from lawsuits seeking billions for their alleged participation in secret, warrantless surveillance programs that targeted Americans.
The Spring ’07 checks represent 86 percent of money donated to Rockefeller by Verizon employees since at least 2001.
AT&T executives discovered a fondness for Rockefeller just a month after Verizon execs did and over a three-month span, collectively made donations totaling $19,350.
Lawyers are Rockefeller’s largest source of industry funds, only outstripped by the combined totals of finance, insurance and real estate. Rockefeller’s top donor, giving nearly $66,000, was K&L Gates, lawyers and lobbyists for energy and hi-tech interests. (The Gates in the firm’s name is Microsoft founder Bill Gates’s father.) Other major contributors include Steptoe & Johnson (12th), which began its practice in Charleston in 1928; “Wall Street’s most powerful law firm”, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (18th); Chicago’s huge international law firm Kirkland & Ellis (19th); and West Virginia lawyers Bowles Rice (20th).
The Senator from coal-rich West Virginia received numerous donations from energy companies such as General Electric (seventh); Peabody Energy (11th), the largest private-sector coal company in the world; coal miners’ union the United Mine Workers of America (13th); and American Electric Power (15th), serving Appalachia and elsewhere.
Other donors with in-state connections were Forest City Enterprises (sixth), real estate developers with projects in Charleston and elsewhere; West Virginia University (eighth); and Park Corporation (ninth), which recently refurbished a $100 million automotive plant in Charleston using government loans.
Rounding out Rockefeller’s list are media mega-conglomerate Time Warner (second); airline holding company United Continental (fourth); trade group the American Hospital Association (tenth); accounting giant Ernst & Young (14th); Delta Air Lines (16th); and soda leviathan PepsiCo (17th).