By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
The military-industrial complex flexed its muscle last week when the U.S. House of Representatives nearly approved a measure to shut down the National Security Agency’s secret electronic surveillance program.
According to a new analysis from MapLight, a noprofit that tracks special interest spending in Congress, members of the U.S. House who voted to continue against the proposal to shutter the NSA spying program received — on average — twice as much in campaign contributions from defense industry interests as members who supported the proposal.
Maplight examined contributions over a two-year period ending on Dec. 31, 2012 and found that defense and intelligence interests gave more than $12.9 million to members of Congress.
On average, lawmakers who voted to continue the NSA spying program got $41,635 from those special interests. Those who voted to end the dragnet surveillance program got an average of only $18,765.
“How can we trust legislators to vote in the public interest when they are dependent on industry campaign funding to get elected? Our broken money and politics system forces lawmakers into a conflict of interest between lawmakers’ voters and their donors,” Daniel G. Newman, MapLight’s president and co-founder, told Wired Magazine earlier this week.
The proposal, offered by U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., would have allowed the NSA to conduct surveillance on those who were suspected or accused of a crime.
The vote divided Republicans and Democrats in the House. When the dust cleared on July 24, the effort to suspend the warrantless electronic spying program failed by a vote of 217-205.
As the MapLight analysis shows, the amount of money a representative received from defense industry special interests was a far better indicator of whether they voted “yes” or “no” on the proposal than their party affiliation.
The list is truly bipartisan, with members of both parties among the top recipients of campaign contributions from defense contractors and special interests connected to the nation’s intelligence industry.
Of the top 10 recipients of campaign cash from the military-industrial complex, only U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., voted to end the NSA program.
“I supported the Amash amendment because Section 215 opens the door to serious abuses by a future administration,” Moran said in a statement. “We have to view these issues through the lens of how a future ‘Nixonian-style’ administration could misuse this type of information. It’s our best safeguard against the abuse of presidential power.”
Of the top 20 on MapLight’s list, only Moran and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., voted to end the NSA collection of phone and email records.
The NSA’s domestic surveillance has been under increased scrutiny in the two months since details of the spying program were made public by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Eric Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and can be reached at [email protected].