Washington Prowler

Internet Nationalization

Democrat designs are clear enough. But why are Republicans abetting the likes of MoveOn.org in this effort?

By 5.15.06

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NET NEUTRALITY (sic)
"This is how poisonous it's gotten in Washington," says a consulting lobbyist for a broadcast network. "You have Republicans taking money from companies and firms working to end their control of Congress, and even worse, working with outfits like MoveOn.org. And they are taking this money to not only help groups dedicated to defeating Republicans, but also for legislation that would regulate the Internet."

The highest profile Republican among those the lobbyist is referring to is Vin Weber, former House member and close ally to both former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist (who is on the opposite side of Weber's current fight). Weber is a leader of a coalition that supports legislation introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) and pending legislation backed by Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.). Sources say that Internet companies Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft, eBay, and others ponied up $330,000 each to build the coalition that Weber is using to influence conservative groups, most recently the Christian Coalition, to join.

"Word is that some of these groups are taking as much as $50,000 to sign on to support Internet regulation," says a House Energy Committee staffer. "It's remarkable that these groups are supporting legislation that would actually do more harm to them. That and the groups they are helping are actually working against them and many of the candidates they are supporting."

The Internet regulation that is under consideration is called "Internet Neutrality," and it would essentially bar all high-speed network operators such as Comcast and ATT to offer additional services such as video downloads, online video-gaming, or enhanced email that compete with companies like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft that already offer them. "Markey and Snowe want to basically ensure that Google and Microsoft and other big, established companies have their market share protected. They claim this is about protecting consumers, but how is making sure Google has no competition good for consumers?" says the House committee staffer.

The legislation, say some Senate Republican staffers, would lead to a "Nationalized Internet," because the companies that are wholly financing broadband deployment, telecom and cable and wireless companies, would most likely stop investing in the technology, forcing the federal government to perhaps foot the bill and regulate the Internet even more.

"If a company is told, 'Build this network, but you can't make any money off of it because it will create too much competition,' what do you expect a company to do? That is what this legislation is going to do, and Google and Micrososft are more than happy to see it happen, because they make money off of the Internet in different ways from the networks' operators. Their business model is safe," says a Senate Commerce Committee staffer.

What makes Weber's cynical support of the legislation even worse, say Republican Hill staffers, is that his activities also aid MoveOn.org, the extremist, left-wing organization, which is now being financially backed by Google so that MoveOn can help Google with "Net Neutrality." Google has become the single largest private corporate underwriter of MoveOn. According to sources in the Democrat National Committee, MoveOn has received more than $1 million from Google and its lobbyists in Washington to create grassroots support for the Internet regulation legislation. Some of that money has gone to an online petition drive and a letter-writing campaign, but the majority of that money is being used to fund their activities against Republicans out in the states.

For example, MoveOn is said by one DNC source to have funneled at least $100,000 "Net Neutrality" money to its operations in Pennsylvania (where MoveOn is organizing against Sen. Rick Santorum). It has also sent funds to Florida, Ohio, and Missouri.

MoveOn is also using the funds to help Democrats, including House minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state. "A month ago, Representative Pelosi didn't know what Net Neutrality was, then she heard that Google and other Silicon Valley firms wanted it. Now it's one of her top issues. What Silicon Valley wants, Silicon Valley gets," says a House Democrat leadership staffer.

"You have to wonder when conservatives will wake up and realize what is happening here," says a House Republican leadership aide. "You have this unholy alliance between Google and MoveOn and groups like the Christian Coalition. I mean how is it the Christian Coalition can help a company like Google, which makes money off of online pornography? Conservatives ought to be very concerned about this situation, but they don't seem to get it. And perhaps by the time they do, it will be too late."

LOOKING GOOD
White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove was looking chipper at his appearance before the Council on National Policy's 25th anniversary meeting in Virginia late last week. Rove appeared before the group for an off-the-record briefing. Without getting into too many specifics, Rove told the largely conservative group of business people that he was confident Republicans would hold both houses of Congress and that President would be more focused in the coming months on putting forward issues and policies that base conservatives could get behind.

The words were good, but better was Rove's demeanor, which indicated he was confident he would be around to help the President achieve his goals.

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