That's what you call a wildly successful protest.
But looking through the names, it's hard not to notice a certain fact. Only two Democrats -- Maryland's Ben Cardin (originally a co-sponsor) and Jeff Merkley of Oregon -- have changed positions. The bill originally enjoyed bipartisan support, but the rush to abandon it was not bipartisan at all.
While Silicon Valley may have found their voice echos on Capitol Hill more loudly than expected, what remains after Wednesday’s protest is even more telling that what provoked it: Senate Democrats are, by and large, the core pillars of support for the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), which has not otherwise engendered a strict partisan divide among lawmakers.
Far and away, the top beneficiary in the Senate from interest groups that support PIPA is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who’s taken in just short of a million dollars from those groups, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. She’s also the most recent Senator to co-sponsor PIPA, adding her name to the list on Dec. 12. The runner-up is Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who’s taken $777,383 from PIPA-supporting interest groups, and has co-sponsored the bill since May 2011.
In fact, a list of the top 20 beneficiaries of special interest money in favor of PIPA reads like a list of the Senate’s most influential Democrats: Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) in third; Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in fourth; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in fifth; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill’s primary sponsor, in sixth; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in seventh; Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in eighth; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in ninth; and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in tenth.
In fact, you don't hit a Republican until you get way down to fifteenth place -- Sen. Mitch McConnell, the senate minority leader.
This isn't extremely surprising. The Democratic Party has been awful at consumer protection from the entertainment industry since Clinton. It was under Clinton that media consolidation began in earnest, thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which he signed into law. There are now fewer media voices because of it. The bill was sold as a way to increase competition. The opposite happened -- fewer media companies, a shift toward monopolism, and higher costs to consumers. Right wing talk radio boomed, for example, as Clear Channel took over station after station.
Needless to say, entertainment conglomerates and media companies thought this was wonderful. And Democrats reaped the rewards.
This is the corrupting influence of money in politics. PIPA is almost certainly doomed, since it's house sibling SOPA is pretty much done for. You could argue that, given this fact, there's no downside for Democratic Senators still supporting PIPA -- it's not going to happen, but they still get the Big Media largesse. But that doesn't explain why so many were for it in the first place. The $7,319,983 given to the top eighteen Democratic supporters of PIPA does.
There are a couple of lessons to be learned here; first, Democrats can't be counted on to be the good guys. A two party system is often characterized as a choice between the lesser of two evils. Never forget that the lesser is still an evil.
Second, that as long as votes are for sale in Washington, you can't count on anyone to watch your back. We're going to have to do that ourselves.