Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Corporate Conventions

I'm still trying to figure out why Barack Obama on July 9, 2008 voted for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008, which

- according to law professor Martin S. Lederman, permits the National Security Agency to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda -- indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security.

- grants retroactive immunity to those telecommunications companies which granted the Justice Department's request to spy (illegally) on American citizens

Among the possible reasons for Obama's vote:

a) a move to the center, the mainsteam media's favorite rationale, given that it sees almost everything in the simplistic terms of liberal vs. conservative;

b) fear of ads from 527 organizations targeting the nominee as coddling terrorists and endangering national security;

c) the interest the candidate has in preserving his own power as President to act as he sees fit in the interests of "national security," notwithstanding the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution;

d) economic interests.

Economic interests? Stephen Weissman, Associate Director for Policy at the Campaign Finance Institute, explained on a recent edition of Democracy Now! that while federal law prohibits unlimited contributions to a political candidate and any direct contributions from a union or a corporation, the Federal Election Commission permits unlimited contributions to the host committee of a presidential nominating convention in the guise that it is aimed to promote the convention city. While companies are not required to reveal what they have given either host committee, Weissman's group has determined that the companies which have given to the 2008 committees have spent approximately $1.1 billion lobbying the federal government since the last presidential election. There are 146 companies which have given thus far, nearly 40 of them having contributed to both parties- er, conventions.

Two of these are the telecommunications giantsComcast and AT&T, among those which collaborated with the Administration's spying formerly prohibited under FISA. (Admittedly, Qwest Communications, which refused the spying request, also is a contributor.) In a recent blog, author and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald brings us a representation of the attractive bag, replete with company name and logo, every delegate and member of the media at the Democratic Convention will receive from AT&T in Denver. And in the discussion with Weissman and Goodman, Greenwald explains:

the Democrats in Congress just last month gave an extraordinary gift of telecom amnesty to most of the entire telecom industry, including AT&T and Comcast, in order to protect them from lawsuits and in a bill that was written by the telecom industry and their lobbyists. So, to turn around and see such a sort of tawdry expression of the very close relationship between the telecom industry and the Democrats, who had just given them an extraordinary gift, was, I thought, quite remarkable.

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