How much do you have to spend to make sure a controversial Internet bill passes the House?
About $605 million.
According to a study by the watchdog group the Sunlight Foundation, that’s the amount that supporters of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) spent lobbying on the members of Congress from 2011 to the fall of 2012. By contrast, groups that opposed the controversial bill spent about $4.3 million, about 140th of that amount.
The Sunlight Foundation released the study Thursday morning, a few hours before CISPA resoundingly passed the House a 288-127 vote. “While it’s impossible to say how many of those dollars were devoted to trying to influence votes on the CISPA bill,” the study’s authors wrote, “it provides some measure of the lopsidedness of the resources available to each side.”
Support for the 2013 CISPA—a similar version passed the House in 2012, but never made it further—varies widely. CISPA is designed to help U.S. companies to better deal with hackers by sharing what they know with federal agencies, like the NSA and FBI, that can help fight back. But digital privacy groups like the EFF and ACLU say this is a means for corporations to gain legal immunity when passing your otherwise lawfully protected personal information to the government.
CISPA’s sponsors, Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), repeatedly cite the bill’s support from the tech community—”Those in the business of prosperity on the Internet,” in the words of Rogers. After all, CISPA could help those in the tech sector with their own security efforts. Numerous executives at tech companies support the bill, including heads at Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.
Moreover, nearly 200 senior IBM executives flew to D.C. specifically to push for the bill. According to a study by Maplight, the next day, CISPA’s cosponsors jumped from two to 36. Those members received, in total, $7,626,081 from groups that support CISPA and $200,362 from the bill’s opponents.
But there’s significant Internet opposition, too. “I’m in ‘the business of prosperity on the internet’ and I opposed [Rogers’s] bill,” Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian told the Daily Dot Wednesday. “As written, it’s a bad bill for me as a citizen. That’s my first priority.”
And plenty of fellow citizens feel the same way. Millions have signed one of the many online anti-CISPA petitions, and more than 100,000 Americans told the White House the same thing in the space of just a month.
Fortunately for CISPA’s opponents, if the bill were to pass the Senate—and whether it would even get picked up is unclear—the Obama administration has promised to veto the bill without major privacy concessions.
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