Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

Summary: It's an honor to work for the American people, not a stepping stone to a bigger score.

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"Okay, okay. Breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. Do. Not. Roar at the top of your lungs. Settle down."

I needed to tell myself that for a good few minutes before I could begin to write this article. To say that I'm outraged is an understatement. When I tell you about what's got me so ticked off, you're going to be livid yourself.

So, take a deep breath. You're going to need it.

Let me cut to the chase. Two of the people responsible for writing these dangerous and un-American bills -- the key writer for the House version and the key writer for the Senate version -- have just accepted positions for two of the lobbying organizations pushing for the bill.

According to Politico, Allison Halataei, former deputy chief of staff and parliamentarian to House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith and Lauren Pastarnack, a Senate Judiciary Committee senior aide, have accepted gigs with two of the lobbying firms that stand to gain the most from the passage of these regressive, First Amendment squelching, due-process destroying, job-killing bills.

Get this. Now that she helped write the bill and get it into consideration, Halataei is officially the National Music Publisher's Association chief liaison to Congress. Pasternak scored a juicy gig as the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) director of government relations.

I'll bet their credit scores just took a big jump. Hey, Allison and Lauren, thanks for selling out the rest of your fellow Americans! Now, as it turns out, Halataei and Pastarnack are both Republicans. But lest you think this sell-out-America and sell-your-soul trend is limited to Republicans, oh no. No way. Case in point: Chris Dodd.

Chris Dodd served as a U.S. Senator from 1981 through 2011, a total of 30 years. Now, despite claiming repeatedly that he would never accept a lobbying position, the esteemed former Democratic Senator from Connecticut is now the Chairman and CEO of the MPAA.

See? Both Democrats and Republicans can be scum.

We've talked a lot about the heinous SOPA and PROTECT-IP bills working their way through committee. In fact, after publishing my screed against Congressmen Bill Posey's noncommittal position on SOPA, I had the chance to talk at length with his team just last Friday. Who, for the record, are not scum. They're actually quite nice.

See also: Dear Congressman Posey, SOPA is both dangerous and un-American

Actually, just in case you were curious about whether or not the powers-that-be read ZDNet, I got a call from Rep. Posey's press secretary less than three hours after I pressed "Publish" on the article. Gotta love them Google Alerts!

In any case, the reason Posey's response about SOPA to his constituent was so noncommittal was because it wasn't one if his areas of responsibility. Yet. Congress-critters sit on various committees and bills, in their early stages, are crafted in one committee or another. Think of the committee as a development team.

One member of Congress might be on the Judiciary committee, which is working on SOPA. Another might be on the Financial Services committee, which is its own movable feast of nightmares. In any case, it's like one Google developer working on, say, the spreadsheet Google App and another developer working on Google News. They may discuss each in passing, but they really don't get into the guts of the other group's code.

So, until the bill gets out of committee, think of it as if it's in the alpha stage of development. Once (or if) it gets out of committee, then more legislators will begin to pay more attention to it (sort of like being in beta). Heh, the analogy works! If the law passes, it's in golden master, on the way to the President. If it gets signed, it's officially shipped.

Anyway, the letter Posey's constituent got back was noncommittal because, essentially, Poseys office didn't know anything much about the bill because it wasn't on their desks yet. Of course, they wrote their response in typical politician-ese, which meant that no matter which side you might favor, the letter was designed to (hopefully) appeal to you. In this case, it didn't quite work, the constituent wrote me, I wrote my article, and a Google Alert showed up in their inbox, so they contacted me.

So, now you know a little more about the sausage grinding that occurs as part of the legislative process. That does not excuse Halataei, Pastarnack, and Dodd for trading their responsibilities to the American public for nicer cars and bigger houses.

There are actually two outrages here. One is that they'd essentially sell out to two declared enemies of Internet freedoms. But the second outrage is we don't really know if they actually sold influence. We don't know if, for example, the MPAA promised Pasternack a high-paying job if she influenced the bill in just a certain way, while working for the United States Senate.

We just don't know if they did anything unethical. But we do know it looks mighty fishy. And that's just plain disappointing.

It's an honor to work for the American people, not a stepping stone to a bigger score.

You folks working in politics in Washington, remember that now, okay?

Topics: Banking, Apps, CXO, Google, Software Development, IT Employment

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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78 comments
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  • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

    I'm also in Posey's district, and as a supporter of his I hope he does the right thing here. I'm glad that he has also taken steps to get rid of net neutrality which is another backdoor way of more government control from a bunch of un-elected FCC officials.
    SScott721
    • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

      @SScott721 ...as opposed to allowing the biggest corporations to control the 'net, which is what will happen if net neutrality is crushed? No sale.
      P.F. Bruns
      • I figure...

        @P.F. Bruns <br>...that corporate executives have the same right to petition the politicians for redress as anyone else, but it doesn't have to be done behind closed doors. Historically, petitions were in writing and submitted publicly, which I think was a good thing.
        John L. Ries
      • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

        @P.F. Bruns

        If what you say is going to happen if we don't pass Net Neutrality is accurate, why isn't it already happening in the absence of Net Neutrality? Why hasn't it ever happened in the entire U.S. history of the Internet?
        swmace
      • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

        @P.F. Bruns The biggest corporations surely include Google and Amazon.
        rowenacherry
      • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

        @swmace

        Were you not paying attention when Comcast started charging Netflix for access to the internet connection YOU'RE ALREADY PAYING FOR!? How about reading Comcast's investor report where they layout their plan for reducing the quality of their service while charging more money in order to approach >30% profit margins? It's been HAPPENING for 15 years.
        tkejlboom
      • tkejlboom: Comcast charging more for broadband traffic is not the same as

        controlling the content that's delivered.

        Charging more for sites that use an inordinate amount of broadband usage, has nothing to do with net neutrality. Net neutrality is still a solution to a non-existent problem.
        adornoe
      • Bruns: So, where exactly is the problem which net neutrality is trying to

        solve?

        Net neutrality is nothing more than the beginning steps towards government control of the content and the delivery methods. So, you have things quite reversed.

        Net neutrality regulations or legislation is nothing more than a foot in the door by politicians who want to take internet regulations towards full control by government. Net neutrality is a farce being perpetrated by big government advocates, and which will do the opposite of what the name implies.
        adornoe
      • How is it possible

        @P.F. Bruns ...that anyone with basic math skills could oppose net neutrality?
        doctordawg
      • doctordawg:Please explain how net neutrality is in any way related to math.

        @P.F. Bruns
        adornoe
      • doctordawg:Please explain how net neutrality is in any way related to math.

        Asides from the math, net neutrality has nothing to do with actual "net neutrality", and it's just a ruse by leftist politicians to start on the way towards real control of the internet, both the delivery methods and the content.

        So, if you must, use your math to explain how net neutrality solves anything. Net neutrality is a solution looking for a problem.

        If you don't understand what that means, then you need to learn more math. ;)
        adornoe
    • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

      @SScott721 Why do people assume unelected means wrong, corrupt or stupid? Most political scandals (whether Nixon or the last Governor of Illinois) were elected! As for the FCC it may well be all that stands between us and the lobbyists for companies who would have the Internet run for the corporations, by the corporations - lest profit disappear from their bank accounts!
      dallchin@...
      • The FCC, under the wrong hands, will be more damaging than anything

        that businesses could ever conceive of doing. What a business can do, might be illegal or legal, and if illegal, can be undone easily, but, if a government agency undertakes to do something illegal or harmful, it's a lot bigger problem to overcome.

        The FCC is one of those agencies which needs to be watched more carefully than most politicians, because, they could end up controlling the media and the internet and the content, which would all be unconstitutional.

        Beware of sheep in wolves clothing.
        adornoe
    • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

      @SScott721
      Oh. The slippery slope argument.
      http://www.smbc-theater.com/?id=197

      Regulation does not automatically lead to greater regulation. I sure as hell hope I don't need to start paying a Youtube fee. Or an "unapproved sites" fee. I never want to see a banner injected into a site that says "Tired of stuttering video? Contact Comcast now to ask about our video streaming combo pack discount!"
      Onaka
      • Onaka: The slippery slope argument always works in government,

        and that's why there are laws proposed to solve problems which don't really exist. Why would someone need to legislate to solve problems which don't exist? It's for creating a springboard for more legislation in the same area of the "perceived" or "invented" problem. Create a non-existent problem, then create a phony solution, and that phony solution becomes a precedent for further regulations. It happens all the time, and that's why we have agencies abusing their power after some initial regulation or law got the ball started, such as the FCC and EPA.
        adornoe
    • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

      @SScott721 Wait, I thought you were keeping up?
      It IS happening...selective bandwidth for competitors, lockouts for all VPN's, shutdowns of service for circulating nodes and, oh yes, one-party propaganda 24/7 ON OUR AIRWAVES.
      Time for net neutrality AND the Fairness Doctrine.
      mykmlr@...
  • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

    In my dictatorial dream nation, I place a ban on any government employee working anywhere that has lobbied for something in the past five years. If they're experts at media they can get lots of jobs that don't directly interact with government. Reality is, they're not ... they have friends and contacts that the media empire wants.
    Ididar
    • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

      @Ididar In a dream nation, why would you even have lobbyists?
      P.F. Bruns
      • Response above

        @P.F. Bruns <br>I put it in the wrong place. I quote:<br><br> "I figure that corporate executives have the same right to petition the politicians for redress as anyone else, but it doesn't have to be done behind closed doors. Historically, petitions were in writing and submitted publicly, which I think was a good thing."<br><br>Lobbying behind closed doors only serves to make it easier to evade responsibility for one's own actions.
        John L. Ries
      • RE: Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage

        [i]Lobbying behind closed doors only serves to make it easier to evade responsibility for one's own actions.[/i]

        Which is what most of them do. Hence, they aren't accountable.
        ScorpioBlue