Maplight asserts that "...We provide journalists and citizens with transparency tools that connect data on campaign contributions, politicians, legislative votes, industries, companies, and more to show patterns of influence never before possible to see. These tools allow users to gain unique insights into how campaign contributions affect policy so they can draw their own conclusions about how money influences our political system..."
The report, submitted by Donny Shaw, explains that in the wake of document leaks by former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, "...the congressional committees in charge of overseeing the government's intelligence operations have come to the defense of the surveillance and data collection programs, and the agencies that administer them. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have rejected attempts to reform the programs while advancing legislation to bolster their legal status and providing a funding boost to the National Security Agency (NSA) to protect their secrecy..."
|United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (United States House of Representatives) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
- "...In total, members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have received $3.7 million from top intelligence services contractors since January 1, 2005.
- Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from Maryland -- home of NSA headquarters -- led the committees in money received from top intelligence contractors. Representative C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Md., is the largest recipient, having received $363,600 since January 1, 2005. Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., is the second largest recipient, having received $210,150.
- Republican members of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have received $1.86 million since January 1, 2005, while Democrat members have received $1.82 million over the same time period.
- Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have received $2.2 million since January 1, 2005 from top intelligence services contractors, while members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have received $1.5 million.
- Lockheed Martin has given $798,910 to members the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence since January 1, 2005, more than any of the other top 20 intelligence service contractors. Northrop Grumman has given $753,101, the second highest amount, and Honeywell has given $714,913, the third highest amount..."
|English: Dianne Feinstein http://bioguide.congress.gov/bioguide/photo/F/F000062.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
However, Shaw says:
"...on October 30, Feinstein, the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, pushed legislation through her committee that would provide legal authority for many of the NSA's current records collection policies, while making changes to the agency's reporting requirements and requiring Senate confirmation of the NSA director. Feinstein has continually defended the legality of the phone records program and at a hearing earlier this month said, 'I will do everything I can to keep this program from being cancelled out...to destroy it is to make this nation more vulnerable.'..."
Are these legislators breaking any laws by receiving campaign contributions from the very vested interests they are supposedly regulating?
While the answer is "no," does anyone not wonder why they do not have the integrity, the ethics, the "internal compass" that tells them that it is wrong to do so, even for the sake of the appearance of propriety.
How can money they receive from the agencies these elected officials are supposed to "check" not be more than a bribe, so that they vote in favor of the interests of the contractors?
One can argue that there is no law that prohibits Legislators from receiving the big bucks from the agencies they are supposed to be regulating. But why does there need to be an "external deterrent," i.e., a law that punishes them for doing so? Why can they not ethically or morally control themselves? Why must there be the force of law and a penalty at the point of a gun to regulate them?
Was not their being elected to Congress a trust that they would uphold the ethics of their office?
It appears not.
In fact, it appears that they believe their being sent to represent "We, the People" is a license to lie, sneak, steal, and violate the trust of the very people, whose interests they were sent there to protect.
If this seems like an isolated case to you, consider this little gem. Back in 2011 CBS 60 Minutes broke a story about Congress being exempt from insider trading rule penalties. Legislators, due to the nature of their office may or may not have access to inside stock market information. They, in fact, may have such knowledge because in some cases they make the rules, or at least have knowledge of how the rules are going to be changed, and how that will affect some markets. This could possibly give them an "edge" to know which way to invest, and therefore have an unfair advantage over others who are not privy to that information.
There are, as a matter of fact, laws that penalize for "insider trading," but Congress was exempt from those laws. After the CBS expose, there was a clamor for change; there was outrage that Congress men and women might be lining their pockets with "insider" knowledge of market information, and so a law was passed. Congress was "eager" to restore the trust and confidence that their constituents no longer had and so, essentially they were shamed into passing a law to regulate themselves.
Just when you thought the sociopaths had turned over a new leaf, last April your Congress, when you were no longer looking, rolled back a major portion of that law. They specifically undid the portion of the law that required congressional staffers to disclose financial transactions, so that their dealings could be seen by the public to ensure that no insider trading was occurring.
And of when they sent the new law that undid the new restrictions over to the President, did Obama stand up for you, veto it and say "No, I am going to protect the good citizens of this nation from corruption?"
The questions here are being asked rhetorically. There is no pretense of innocence. There is a point to be made, and that point is that outrage must translate into action.
We have the good people of Maplight politically extending themselves out on a limb so that we can have this information. But their actions will be in vain unless "We the People" take that information and act on it to make the required changes to impose restrictions, and our wrath, if necessary, to ensure the ethical and moral administration of our government.
It is not enough to be cynical or to laugh and sneer because our government is infested with corruption. We must act to disinfect, and then act to maintain the required hygiene.