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

It's an honor to work for the American people, not a stepping stone to a bigger score.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor on

"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?

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