Ars Technica reports: Members of the Senate are rushing for the exits in the wake of the Internet’s unprecedented protest of the Protect IP Act (PIPA). At least 13 members of the upper chamber announced their opposition on Wednesday. In a particularly severe blow for Hollywood, at least five of the newly-opposed Senators were previously co-sponsors of the Protect IP Act. (Update: since we ran this story, the tally is up to 18 Senators, of which seven are former co-sponsors. See below.)
The newly-opposed Senators are skewed strongly to the Republican side of the aisle. An Ars Technica survey of Senators’ positions on PIPA turned up only two Democrats, Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who announced their opposition on Wednesday. The other 11 Senators who announced their opposition on Wednesday were all Republicans. These 13 join a handful of others, including Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), who have already announced their opposition.
The partisan slant of the defections is surprising because copyright has not traditionally been considered a partisan issue. Before Wednesday’s protests, PIPA had 16 Republican co-sponsors and 23 Democratic ones. The bill lost a quarter of its Republican co-sponsors on Wednesday, while we know of only one Democrat, Ben Cardin (D-MD), who dropped his support.
Those who dropped their support were most likely bolstered by strong opposition from conservative think tanks and blogs. On Tuesday, the influential Heritage Foundation announced that it would include SOPA and PIPA as a key issue on its voter scorecard. And the popular conservative blog redstate.com, whose founder threatened to mount primary challengers to SOPA supporters last month, has been hailing Senators who come out in opposition.
Neither side is close to having a majority. A whip count by OpenCongress found 35 supporters (including 34 co-sponsors), 18 opponents, and 12 more Senators leaning toward opposition. About 35 Senators have not committed to a position, perhaps reluctant to do so for fear of angering either deep-pocketed Hollywood campaign contributors or their constituents back home.
The Los Angeles Times reports: When Google speaks, the world listens.
And today, when Google asked its users to sign a petition protesting two anti-piracy laws circulating in Congress, millions responded.
A spokeswoman for Google confirmed that 4.5 million people added their names to the company’s anti-SOPA petition today.
When he was about to leave the Senate, Chris Dodd predicted he would not pass through Washington’s revolving door and become a lobbyist. Earlier, in an interview with Glenn Greenwald in 2007, he had scoffed at the idea that anyone would want to become president of a trade association. He’s now “Hollywood’s chief lobbyist“.
Apparently, the person Chris Dodd scorned back then as someone “who wants to be president of a trade association” was . . . Chris Dodd, who is now President of Hollywood’s trade association. Back then, Dodd was running around inducing large numbers of people (including me) to cheer on his presidential campaign by venerating Constitutional freedoms as the supreme value. Now, a mere three years later, he is peddling his influence in Washington — assembled during his 35 years in Congress — on behalf of a bill that, as several law professors in The Stanford Law Review recently wrote, “not only violates basic principles of due process by depriving persons of property without a fair hearing and a reasonable opportunity to be heard, it also constitutes an unconstitutional abridgment of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment” (Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe has argued the same).
Furthermore, one of the bill’s chief Senate sponsors is a liberal Democrat from Vermont, Pat Leahy, who during the Bush years flamboyantly depicted himself as a stalwart defender of Constitutional liberties — and whose “top 3 campaign contribution sources [are] lawyers, entertainment industry, lobbyists.” Those industries are, of course, also major donors to Leahy’s House GOP counterpart. It’s all redolent of how Howard Dean quickly converted himself from a righteous presidential candidate who inspired large numbers of young Americans into little more than a paid shill who exploits his political celebrity by reciting the script of whichever political interests are paying him the most.
In the face of pervasive, sleazy conduct like this, it’s not only tempting to be jaded about partisan activism: it’s rational. Watching Chris Dodd and Pat Leahy join equally compromised Republicans in crusading for an Internet censorship bill — not even out of sincerely held authoritarian impulses but just base, corrupted subservience to industry — reveals most of what one needs to know about how the political class functions and who owns and controls it.