Marco Rubio Takes Money From Telecoms, Cosponsors Bill to Let Them Sell Your Web History

Marco Rubio Takes Money From Telecoms, Cosponsors Bill to Let Them Sell Your Web History
Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr
When a congressional issue unites the following list of subhuman rat-people, you know it's going to be something awful. One bill this year has brought together U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton (the dude who hates Iran), Jim Inhofe (the idiot who took a snowball inside the Capitol to disprove global warming), Rand Paul, Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell, the Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz, and Miami's own Marco Rubio.

Does the measure compel Donald Trump to release his tax returns? Demand that U.S. intelligence agencies declassify their investigation into Trump's alleged ties to Russia? Nope.

The bill simply lets internet service providers sell your web-browsing history to whomever they want.

On March 7, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake proposed the bill, which would repeal the Federal Communications Commission's privacy protections for people who use the internet (read: pretty much everybody). The rules that Flake wants to repeal came into effect only in 2015, after that year's massive battle over net-neutrality laws. As part of the fight, the FCC took over privacy-protection duties from the Federal Trade Commission and banned ISPs from selling users' history to whomever they please without written consent.

That rule is scheduled to take effect December 4. But ISPs, advertising companies, and the FCC's new chair, Ajit Pai, have united to oppose the measure. So now, 24 Republican senators — including Rubio, who has taken at least $156,402 from the telecommunications industry, according to FollowTheMoney.org — have united to try to stop you from controlling who gets to see your browsing history.

Advertising executives are basically salivating at the thought of the bill's passage. This past Monday, a group of major ad-industry trade associations, including the American Advertising Federation, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and the Association of National Advertisers, released a joint statement celebrating how wonderful the bill would be for their bottom lines.

"We wholeheartedly commend Senator Flake and Congressman Blackburn, and their Senate and House colleagues, for introducing resolutions of disapproval for the FCC's ill-considered move to create a new, costly, counterproductive, confusing and unnecessary regulatory regime around privacy for broadband providers," the group wrote.

Naturally, companies such as Comcast and Verizon — two of the largest campaign donors in Washington — have fought the privacy-protection rules ever since. And by "fought," we mean, "dumped money into campaigns for people like Marco Rubio."

Rubio has not made a public statement as to why he's supporting such an obviously pro-corporate, anti-privacy bill. Internet service providers such as Time Warner Cable and AT&T are almost universally loathed, and issues like regulating who can snoop through your web history tend to transcend typical party lines. Thus, pro-ISP bills like this often piss off low- and middle-income people of both parties. There's a reason guys like Donald Trump captivated red-state voters with a vehemently anti-corporate agenda. (Which all turned out to be a lie, but we digress.)

But the hundreds of thousands of dollars Rubio has received from the telecom "services and equipment" industry might have had something to do with his newfound love for targeted web advertising. According to FollowTheMoney, Rubio has taken $15,000 each from Verizon and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the industry's largest trade group. Likewise, Rubio pocketed $13,500 from both AT&T and Wayne M. Perry, the former Boy Scouts of America head who made a fortune working for and selling companies to AT&T.

Down the list, Rubio also took $5,500 from Comcast; $5,000 from Charter Communications, IDT Corporation, EchoStar (which manages Dish Network's satellite fleet), and Motorola; $3,500 from BellSouth; $2,500 from Time Warner Cable; and $2,000 from Sprint.

The Florida Cable Telecommunications Association also kicked in $1,500.

That list doesn't include the swath of cable industry executives who donated to Rubio personally, nor does it count contributions to the Rubio Victory Committee, a political action committee that has donated more than $1.4 million to the Florida senator over the years. FollowTheMoney does not list the Victory Committee's donors online, but records show Rubio's old Reclaim America PAC also took $9,700 from telecom companies over the years.

If Snoop Dogg had made a video about money in politics, perhaps Rubio would speak about the bill.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.