Washington Prowler

Selling the Internet Rope

House Republicans cooperate in high tech schemes to benefit Democrats and speed their own demise. Plus: The biggest loser of 2006.

By 3.26.06

BROADBAND BOOBS
Will the Republicans ever learn? Currently, in the House of Representatives, GOP members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are pushing legislation that includes provisions known as "Internet Neutrality," which would bar broadband network deployers like Comcast from offering new services to their customers, or from charging other companies for special services over those networks.

The idea of "Net Neutrality" as supported by Democrats and now some Republicans was the brainchild of the likes of Google and Amazon.com, which want to offer consumers things like high-speed movie downloads, but don't want to pay the network operators a fee to ensure what in the industry is called "quality of service"-- i.e. , ensuring the consumer gets what he pays for quickly and reliably.

That's not to say that "Net Neutrality" is all bad. There are some consumer issues that even broadband operators support, such as assurances that consumers can hook up any device they want to their broadband connection and that network operators should not be able to block consumers from access to legal websites.

The Net Neutrality legislative battle taking shape in the House this week, however, only illustrates just how shortsighted Republicans can be in a time when the whiff of desperation permeates the halls of Congress. "Why are they [Republicans] doing the bidding of Google and Amazon, when those are the people who are doing so much to knock Republicans out of the majority?" asks a Republican Party fundraiser. "At least some industries have gotten smart about giving political support to those legislators who support their general approaches, but Republicans in the House and Senate are just being stupid."

So while Google and Amazon.com are pushing decidedly Democrat ideas to regulate the Internet against Republicans, they are also financing the very things that may doom Republicans at the polls.

For example, according to sources with knowledge of his operation, former senior Clinton White House adviser and current adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Harold Ickes has raised about $11 million of his stated $11.5 million goal for a company called Data Warehouse.

Data Warehouse, as Ickes has described it to the press, is a privately funded and operated political fundraising list service and data mining operation. It is to be independent of the Democrat National Committee, which is also attempting to create a cutting edge data mining operation for Democrats.

The bulk of the money for Data Warehouse has come from George Soros, several high profile Democrat donors, and investors from Google and Amazon.com, as well as other high-tech companies.

Data mining allows users to gain detailed information about individuals, and to use that information to tailor political appeals to them. For example, Republicans in 2004 were able to use data mining to identify Catholic, pro-life, middle of the road independent voters in Ohio congressional districts, and then tailored their message to attract them to the polls.

Democrats have been trying to do something similar, but have thus far failed to gain ground on Republican operations. Then Democrat National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe had tried to start up such a program, but his attempts were short-circuited by DNC obstructionists opposed to spending the millions of dollars such a program would cost. Current DNC chairman Howard Dean is pursuing the program, but fired those McAuliffe had brought in to start the project.

Now the architect of McAuliffe's operation, Laura Quinn, is running Ickes's private firm.

But beyond the money that Google and Amazon.com are ponying up, they are offering a level of expertise perhaps even Republicans can't rival. Ickes has already announced that he has hired data mining experts from Amazon, as well as from MIT. Sources with knowledge of Ickes' plans also say that he has met with senior Google executives, who are also Democrat donors, and discussed data mining strategies. Both Amazon and Google are considered industry leaders in data mining algorithms and processes.

"So Republicans are giving Google and Amazon what amounts to a corporate handout in the Congress, knowing that Google's people are working to oust them in the fall," says the GOP fundraiser. "Those folks up on the Hill really aren't paying attention."

BIGGEST LOSERS
For all the talk about Republican problems in the House and Senate races in 2006, it isn't as though Democrats are faring much better. According to internal Democrat polling in the House, the party expects to pick up no more than three seats in the House, allowing for several losses by members in up-for-grabs districts.

That's not enough to swing the balance of power in the House, and such a middling performance almost assuredly will doom the leadership career of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who is less popular among Democrats than President George W. Bush is among all Americans.

According to Hotline, a recent blogger's online poll of 14,000 liberal Democrats found 67 percent disapproved of her. In fact, according to the Hotline, only 19 percent believe her to be even "marginally competent." And these are her people!

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