Sen. Pat Leahy’s “clear conflict of interest”— or How to buy the IP law you want

The Republic Report is on fire, a must-read site for corruption news.

Staples in their coverage (and ours) are tales of bought congressmen and bought laws. It’s why I call Congress the House of Retainers; like all retainers, congressmen work for a living, doing the bidding for those who don’t.

Latest is Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). You probably think of him as a “good guy” because … well, you probably aren’t sure, are you. Maybe “from Vermont” has something to do with it; it’s certainly part of his branding (“Pat Leahy, liberal from Vermont”). Fund-raising, like all sales, is all about branding.

But Leahy, in his role as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is one of the main reasons that our side lets all but the worst of MoveCon judges onto the bench, while their side blocks almost every one of ours.

In other words, Leahy is one of the reasons the courts are so stacked against us. (Do click; it’s one of Ms. Lithwick’s best discussions of the modern court system.)

And now for a little quid pro quo. I’ve often said that corruption, the real thing, doesn’t have to involve money, just abuse of power to benefit someone who hasn’t earned what’s handed to him. For example, is a referee in a college football game, one in which one side is loved by the ref and the other side hated, corrupt for taking no money at all for five bad game-changing calls?

What do you call it when an IP Big gives gifts to the chair of a Senate committee with “wide sway over IP law”? Corruption, one might say.

And what gifts. Lee Fang reports (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Corruption comes in many forms. Sometimes special interests attempt to buy influence through disclosed campaign donations, but too often, influence is purchased through unorthodox giveaways to our politicians, from discounted mortgages, to free yachts, and promises of future jobs. …

Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) is chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee, which has wide sway over intellectual property law.

This Friday, Leahy, a “lifelong fan” of the Batman comic book series, will make his second cameo in a Batman movie when “The Dark Knight Rises” opens in theaters.

As Demand Progress notes, Leahy’s appearance is a clear conflict of interest, given the movie industry’s intense lobbying for stricter intellectual property laws covering their products.

Fang has the quid and the quo:

Leahy … has received over $900,000 in campaign contributions from the movie and music industry[.] … He was the guest of Warner Brothers Studio CEO Barry Meyer — the same Meyer whose company and its association (called the MPAA) has spent millions lobbying Leahy’s committee.

In 2010, Meyer testified in front of Leahy on intellectual property legislation. His company is particularly interested in dual legislation known as SOPA/PIPA, which has attracted widespread criticism for its potential to give new powers to industry and government to broadly censor the Internet. …

Fang’s report is filled with this stuff; do read.

Are you getting that “liberal” Pat Leahy is an eager SOPA/PIPA supporter? Markos Moulitsas, quoted here, says:

Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy is inexplicably leading the charge in the Senate with the Protect IP Act [PIPA].

Inexplicably? Doing his master’s bidding, I would say.

GP

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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