Congress is supposed to represent the interests of everyone. But what happens when powerful special interests contribute heavily to lawmakers’ election campaigns? Last week Americans on the political right and left lined up to oppose SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and its Senate counterpart PIPA, the Protect IP Act. Internet giants like Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla and Tumblr went black for 24 hours last Wednesday, declaring it “American Censorship Day.” Google’s anti-SOPA petition received 4.5 million signatures. Prominent internet engineers sent a letter to Congress expressing their concerns. Fortunately the efforts were successful, as Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the House sponsor, agreed to “postpone consideration” of SOPA. But it could come back later, and there are other bills lurking in the wings that would encroach on privacy rights.
A big reason for the split between Congress and the rest of America on SOPA is due to Hollywood and the music recording industry’s big contributions to Democrats in Congress. They are pushing SOPA, and Democrats are the top three recipients of their donations. Time Warner is one of the 50 biggest contributors to political candidates, contributing 72% to Democrats. Consequently, more Democrats than Republicans in Congress support SOPA. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who sponsored PIPA in the Senate, received two of his top five largest campaign contributions this cycle from Time Warner and Walt Disney.
The top five recipients of campaign contributions from supporters of SOPA and PIPA — over $1 million — are all Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who planned on introducing PIPA in the Senate as a jobs bill, received over $3.5 million from supporters.