UPDATE: An earlier version of this story omitted Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-7), who was elected in a special election and recently sworn in.
The Democratic members of Congress staying mum on net neutrality have all taken campaign contributions from major telecom companies, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
In May, the Senate passed a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act that would overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s decision to scrap free internet rules last year. That resolution was then sent to the House, and the Democrats introduced a discharge petition, which, if it gets 218 signatures, will force the House to vote on the resolution even without the recommendation of a committee. The Dems have until December 10 to get 218 signatures, which would require every Democrat and a few Republicans. So far, they have 177 signatures.
That leaves 18 Democrats in the House who have yet to sign the petition, which is, again, the only hope Congress has of voting and passing this resolution to restore net neutrality this year. A Motherboard review of FEC filings shows that each of the representatives has taken thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from one or more major telecom companies, including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), an ISP trade group.
The only exception is Joseph Morelle (NY-25), who won a special election in November to fill a vacant seat and was recently sworn in. A spokesperson for Morelle told Motherboard he intends to sign the petition. Also recently elected in a special election was Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-7), and FEC filings show she also received support from telecoms including Comcast. We reached out to Rep, Scanlon’s office to see if she planned on signing the petition now that she has been sworn in, but have not yet heard back.
You don’t even have to scroll very far through any of these members’ campaign contribution filings on the FEC’s website to find a donor from the telecom industry (hint: sort by amount and they’ll be right near the top). To be clear, getting a campaign contribution from a telecom company does not preclude one from supporting net neutrality regulations. In fact even Rep. Mike Doyle, who introduced the discharge petition, has received money from the NCTA. But it’s worth noting these ties, especially because the Democrat holdouts in the House are also in groups that telecom lobbyists aggressively target: those who represent areas where telecom headquarters are located, and Tri-Caucus members.
The CRA approach was always a long shot: not only did the resolution have to pass both chambers, including a GOP-dominated House, but it would also have to be approved by President Trump if it passed. Still, the silence coming from so many Democratic members is deafening, especially on a topic that has such widespread public support. The fact that they have also pocketed a few thousand from the same corporations that want to keep net neutrality repealed is worth noting.
Here are all the Democratic members of house who have yet to sign the petition, and an example of some of the companies that have contributed to their campaigns:
- Brendan Boyle (PA-13) - Comcast, Verizon, NCTA
- Robert Brady (PA-1) - Comcast
- G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) - AT&T and NCTA
- Matt Cartwright (PA-17) - Comcast
- Jim Costa (CA-16) - AT&T & Comcast
- Henry Cuellar (TX-28) - Verizon
- Dwight Evans (PA-2) - Comcast
- Vicente Gonzalez(Tri-Caucus) - Charter
- Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) - NCTA, Charter
- Gene Green (TX-29) - Verizon
- Tom O'Halleran (AZ-1) - NCTA
- Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-7) - Comcast (Rep. Scanlon was only recently sworn in)
- David Scott (GA-13) - AT&T
- Brad Schneider (IL-10) - Verizon
- Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9) - Comcast
- Filemon Vela (TX-34) - Verizon, NCTA
- Pete Visclosky (IN-1) - Verizon and NCTA
- Frederica Wilson (FL-24) - Comcast