On June 19, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would cut off funding to the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency for installing surveillance “back doors” into software and physical devices. The amendment would also block the NSA and CIA from using funds appropriated by the bill to seek intelligence information about U.S. persons without a warrant.
While the amendment passed with bipartisan support, a MapLight analysis of campaign contributions from employees and PACs of defense contractors and other defense industry interests indicates it failed to gain the support of lawmakers who received the most contributions from defense contractors. MapLight is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (R-Calif.) sponsored the amendment. The 123 Representatives who voted to continue funding surveillance “back doors” and warrant-less searches on U.S. persons received, on average, 113 percent more money ($75,400) from defense contractors and other defense industry interests than did representatives who voted to de-fund the programs ($35,500) between from Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2013.
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, received $693,650 from defense contractors and other defense industry interests during that period, more than any other member of the House, according to MapLight. McKeon voted against the amendment.
MapLight collected the information on donations through OpenSecrets.org.
The bottom line, of course, is not whether you agree or disagree with just how far the government should go in its surveillance efforts. Rather, this reminds us of the influence of money on legislation. It should cause us to pause and ask: Are we satisfied with this system?