Coming Together to Fight Telecom Immunity

Jun 19, 2008
Nicole A. Ozer

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

Apart from the ceremonial naming of post offices, it has become an increasingly rare thing in Washington for Republicans and Democrats to band together on an issue. However, the effort by telecom lobbyists to steamroll retroactive immunity for AT&T, Verizon and Comcast is being met with stiff resistance by a broad coalition of activist groups.

The "compromise" legislation, which has been widely criticized by bloggers, public interest groups and the media is likely to come up for a vote on Friday. The law would pave the way for retroactive immunity for telecom companies that helped the Bush administration illegally spy on the telephone calls and emails of millions of Americans.

Over the past 48 hours, a diverse group of activists — including the ACLU, liberal bloggers, and libertarians have come together to fight retroactive telecom immunity.

Not content to stick with letter writing and phone calls, the public has also donated $230k in two days to a political action committee to support advertising and robo-calls in the districts of legislators who are supporting immunity for the telecom companies.

The pro-immunity effort is being lead by Democratic House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and Senator Jay Rockefeller, both of whom have received significant sums of money from telecom lobbyists. In fact, the major telecom companies have significantly stepped up their lobbying efforts — AT&T and Verizon collectively spent over $10 million lobbying congress in the first 3 months of 2008.

But, in the past year, a number of politicians have come to realize that standing up for civil liberties can also pay dividends. After Senator Chris Dodd threatened to filibuster an earlier attempt at telecom immunity, he received a flood of campaign donations from citizens around the country — netting over $150,000 in just 24 hours.

The bottom line is that this immunity legislation benefits a few of our country's largest corporations while taking away basic rights from the rest of us. It is unconstitutional and unacceptable. Put Congress on notice that the American people don't want a "compromise" that sells out our rights. Act now.