Pay To Play

WASHINGTON — In politics, it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. Republicans and Democrats, and groups sympathetic to each, spend millions on sophisticated technology to gain an advantage.

They do it to exploit vulnerabilities and to make their own information secure. But sometimes, a simple coding mistake can lay bare documents and data that were supposed to be concealed from the prying eyes of the public.

Such an error by the Republican Governors Association recently resulted in the disclosure of exactly the kind of information that political committees given tax-exempt status usually keep secret, namely their corporate donors and the size of their checks…

Among the R.G.A. documents is a 21-page schedule of the policy committee’s Carlsbad meeting last year that lists which companies attended, who represented them and what they contributed. The most elite group, known as the Statesmen, whose members donated $250,000, included Aetna; Coca-Cola; Exxon Mobil; Koch Companies Public Sector, the lobbying arm of the highly political Koch Industries; Microsoft; Pfizer; UnitedHealth Group; and Walmart. The $100,000 Cabinet level included Aflac, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Comcast, Hewlett-Packard, Novartis, Shell Oil, Verizon Communications and Walgreen.

Other documents detail, in part, what they received in return.

One 2009 document states the benefits of a Governors Board membership, for a $50,000 annual contribution or a one-time donation of $100,000, saying it “offers the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process while helping to support the Republican agenda.”

Board members received two tickets to “an exclusive breakfast with the Republican governors and members of their staff”; three tickets to the Governors Forums Series, where “a group of 5-8 governors discuss the best policy practices from around the country on a particular topic”; and a D.C. Discussion Breakfast Series, among other events.

If they bump up to Cabinet Membership — $100,000 annually or a single payment of $200,000 — contributors also receive two invitations to “an exclusive Gubernatorial Dinner,” an “intimate gathering with the Republican governors and special Republican V.I.P. guests” at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington.

Political finance experts say the practice apparently laid out in the documents is not illegal, and probably not unusual. In hundreds of pages posted online, the Republican governors group put it down in black and white. “It’s not that you don’t suspect this, but here you see these companies paying the governors for access,” said Melanie Sloan, the executive director of CREW. “Americans all think it’s pay to play politics. This is what confirms it.”

Sunday Afternoon Matinee

Chinese Anal

…that’s full body cavity searches, mind you.

Chinese anal probes.

For pigeons. 1

Genius.

Chinese Anal

Show 1 footnote

  1. Chinese Anal Probes; yet another great rock n’ roll band name.

Instant Access

Most foreign governments don’t maintain an organization with the depth and breadth of snooping capabilities as America’s NSA.

That is not to say these nations don’t employ spymasters, just that they have limited budgets and hence limited capabilities. So what’s a poorish country to do? How does it keep pace with the technological prowess of the Unites States?

Simple – its bids out the work to one of its national companies.

An obscure federal contract for a company charged with routing millions of phone calls and text messages in the United States has prompted an unusual lobbying battle in which intelligence officials are arguing that the nation’s surveillance secrets could be at risk.

The contractor that wins the bid would essentially act as the air traffic controller for the nation’s phone system, which is run by private companies but is essentially overseen by the government.

And with a European-based company now favored for the job, some current and former intelligence officials — who normally stay out of the business of awarding federal contracts — say they are concerned that the government’s ability to trace reams of phone data used in terrorism and law enforcement investigations could be hindered…

The F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies said that while they had “no position” on who should get the contract, they did want to make sure that their professional needs were adequately addressed and that there would be no disruption in access to call-routing data “in real time or near real time.”

“Law enforcement cannot afford to have a lapse in this vital service,” the agencies told the F.C.C. in a letter.

The agencies expressed particular concern that a contractor with access to the phone system from outside the United States could mean “unwarranted, and potentially harmful” access to American surveillance methods and targets…

The phone-routing system grew out of a 1997 law that allowed cellphone and landline users to keep the same number even when they switched carriers. These so-called portability standards made things easier for consumers but created potential complications for intelligence and law enforcement officials in tracing phone calls and determining which numbers were tied to which carriers.

The routing network that was put in place, with Neustar as its administrator, was designed partly to allow the government nearly instant access to the data on where calls were being routed.

To us the most (inadvertently) hilarious aspect of this news item is the emphasis on the putative damage that would be caused to our own spy agencies if a foreign company won the phone routing contract.

It’s hard to imagine a more blatant admission that the U.S. government has spied, is spying and intends to spy indefinitely on its citizens on a daily for the foreseeable future.

Wake up, sheeple.
Instant Access