For Franken and Klobuchar, does money from big media mean support for PIPA? [UPDATE]
It's a cliche, but true -- when trying to figure out the whys and wherefores of politics, you should follow the money. And in the case of Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken's support for the now-stalled PIPA legislation, the money trail appears to lead back to big media.
Campaign finance records indicate that big media companies have been huge supporters of both of our senators -- and big media, of course, stands to gain from PIPA through more stringent copyright regulations meant to wipe pirated content off the internet.
Could our senators' support for PIPA have been bought and paid for?
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Franken's top contributor since 2007 has been Time Warner, which has given more than $65,000 to his campaign committee. Media companies as a whole gave Franken a total of $904,568 during the same period, which is the third most he's received from any industry.
For her part, Klobuchar received over $23,000 from Time Warner and more than $205,000 from media as a whole, which is the fifth most from any industry. The center lists her as having received the third most of any senator from recorded music and music production interests.
In the wake of Wednesday's unprecedented online protests, all eight representatives from Minnesota's congressional delegation said they either don't support the House version of PIPA or are at least inclined not to support it. But while Franken and Klobuchar acknowledged the "concerns" of protesters, they indicated they're still interested in strengthening copyright protections for online media.
Wikipedia was one of many internet heavyweights to protest PIPA on Wednesday.
MinnPost quoted a Klobuchar spokesman as saying:
[Sen. Klobuchar] believes we need to address concerns being raised today and work out a compromise that balances free exchange on the Internet with stopping foreign piracy that hurts our economy.
Striking a similar note, Franken's spokesman said:
Sen. Franken has heard the concerns that many Minnesotans have voiced over the past few days about the PROTECT IP Act, and he believes we need to reach a compromise that will both keep the Internet free and open and protect American jobs.
The money Franken and Klobuchar have received from big media doesn't necessarily mean their support of PIPA was bought and paid for. After all, the correlation could just be a coincidence, or perhaps big media supports the senators because they're perceived as principled anti-piracy advocates. Franken, of course, has connections in the entertainment industry that go back decades, so it isn't surprising to learn that media interests strongly support him.
So while the claim that their support was bought and paid for involves a chicken-or-egg conundrum, the money trail leads back to big media. And where the money trail leads, the votes tend to follow.
:: UPDATE ::
An hour after this story was published, Klobuchar's D.C. office responded to a City Pages phone call seeking comment with the following statement from communications director Linden Zakula:
The senator's work on this issue starts with her roots. Her dad is a journalist and an author, and as a prosecutor she made combating white-collar fraud a priority and worked on legislation at the state level to go after the computer piracy issue long before she was in the U.S. Senate.
:: UPDATE 2 ::
A couple hours after the previous update, a spokesperson for Franken sent the City Pages the following statement on behalf of the senator:
...there are millions of Americans whose livelihoods rely on strong protections for intellectual property: middle-class workers - most of them union workers - in all 50 states, thousands of them here in Minnesota, working in a variety of industries from film production to publishing to software development. If we don't protect our intellectual property, international criminals - as well as legitimate businesses like payment processors and ad networks - will continue to profit dishonestly from the work these Americans are doing every day. And that puts these millions of jobs at serious risk. That's reason enough to act. But these criminals are also putting Minnesota families in danger by flooding our nation with counterfeit products - not just bootleg movies and software, but phony medications and knockoff equipment for first responders.
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