Did Defense Money Buy NSA Votes?

When the House recently defeated a bill to cut funding for the NSA’s national telephone-snooping program with a vote of 217-205, it was an example of the triumph of private money over public good.

A Berkeley-based nonprofit called MapLight analyzed the vote and compared it with political donations to House members at the request of Wired.

The analysis found that the 217 House members who voted against cutting NSA funding, both Republican and Democrat, had received on average 122 percent more contributions from defense and intelligence industry sources as those who voted for dismantling the NSA program.

Over a two-year period  that ended in December, political action committees and employees from companies like Honeywell, Lockheed and Boeing kicked in almost $13 million.

The lawmakers who voted to continue the NSA’s spying on Americans averaged $41,635 each from those contributions, while those who stood up for privacy averaged $18,765.

The amendment to remove approval for the spying program was proposed by Republican Justin Amash, who received $1,400, placing him in the bottom 50 of donation recipients.

Republican Rep. Howard McKeon received more than $526,000 and voted against the Amash amendment.

Out of 26 representatives who received no defense contributions, 16 sided with Amash.

House Speaker John Boehner ranked 15th in the defense earnings. Nancy Pelosi raked in $47,000 during the two-year period. Both voted against the Amash amendment.

The numbers don’t necessarily mean that representatives have been “bought off” per se by the defense and intelligence industries. Political groups may have simply funneled money to people who already agreed with their goals.

What they do show quite clearly, however, is that the majority of members of the House on both sides of the aisle are more dedicated to the profit motives of large corporate constituencies and to feeding the perceived dangers of terrorism than they are to the liberties of individuals.

Whether that is the result of a craving for money and power or it stems from genuine belief, it poses a definite threat to the continuation of our republic. When the representatives of the people have forgotten that they are there to protect liberty, then the door is wide open for any sort of authoritarian government proposal, and there is very little hope for turning back.