GOP To Telecoms: Give Us Cash For Advocating Wiretaps
Roll Call reports:
With the House Democrats' refusal to grant retroactive immunity to phone companies -- stalling the rewrite of the warrantless wiretapping program -- GOP leadership aides are grumbling that their party isn't getting more political money from the telecommunications industry.
Like most corporate interests with a heavy stake in Congressional action, the major phone companies significantly boosted their contributions to Democrats last year after the party surged back into the majority.
But giving by that sector is getting special attention from Republicans now that the debate over the surveillance program is front and center -- and focused on the phone companies' role in aiding the Bush administration after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. ...
House Republicans have sought to capitalize on the immunity issue by painting Democrats as more interested in enriching their trial lawyer supporters than protecting national security.
In a reflection of the sensitivity of the subject matter, and an apparent recognition that they would undermine their own messaging by appearing to be motivated by fundraising concerns, Republicans on and off Capitol Hill declined to comment on the record.
But several confirmed the griping in GOP leadership ranks over the phone companies' shifting donations.
"When those numbers are made evident, it causes some angst," one Republican lobbyist said. "Leadership are told by staff, who look through this. There's communication back and forth" between GOP leadership and downtown.
"There's no question that from time to time staff, and maybe some Members, say to fellow travelers: 'Are you giving us some air cover? Are you helping us help you?'"
The Washington Post also reports today that the GOP sees political gain in the FISA issue:
Republicans are convinced that highlighting their counterterrorism policies will be a political winner in this presidential election year, and they have focused this week on Democratic opposition to their version of a new surveillance bill as a way to paint Democrats as soft on national security, according to GOP lawmakers and their aides.
Democrats respond that they are unfazed by the attacks, arguing that most Americans doubt the credibility of President Bush and Republicans when it comes to warning about security threats.
Bush and GOP lawmakers have been releasing a blizzard of public statements and organizing multiple news conferences to pressure the House to adopt a Senate bill renewing and expanding a temporary surveillance law called the Protect America Act. The measure would grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies over their cooperation in warrantless wiretapping done after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.