Something came up a while ago on Slashdot about taxing Internet service in the US and the idea that VoIP would be excluded in a new bill that extends the tax free status of Internet access. As usual most of the details of the proposed law are completely lost in the movement from the bill as it's written to Infoworld to Slashdot. In the course of discussion when I asked about how to see the bill itself, someone kindly provided a link to Thomas, the legislative information resource at the Library of Congress. Unfortunately the search results there aren't RESTful - there's no way to get a permalink to HR 3678 (apparently the bill in question). Anyhow, after looking up that bill and seeing the sponsors I thought it would be informative to look up the politicians named on the bill at Open Secrets and see who funds their campaigns.
There were a number of names and what I found was interesting in relation to the changes outlined in this bill. I'll just quote the reply I made on Slashdot.
That's helpful. The names on the bill are
Mr. CONYERS (for himself, Ms. LINDA T. SANCHEZ of California, Mr. CANNON, Mr. BOUCHER, Mr. WATT, Mr. ISSA, and Mr. SENSENBRENNER)
Going by the data on the 2005-2006 cycle at OpenSecrets, most of them get a fair chunk of money from some telcos.
Conyers had contributions from National Cable & Telecommunications Assn, Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc in the range of over $9,000 each (they are all in the list of his top contributors at Open Secrets).
Sanchez had contributions from AT&T Inc of $10,000.
Cannon had contributions from AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications, and National Cable & Telecommunications Assn for amounts from $10,000 to $15,000.
Boucher had contributions from AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications, and National Cable & Telecommunications Assn for amounts from $8,000 to $14,000.
For Watt I don't see anything obvious in his list of top contributors for that time.
Issa got $10,000 from National Cable & Telecommunications Assn and $11,000 from AT&T Inc.
Sensenbrenner got $10,000 from National Cable & Telecommunications Assn and $6,500 from AT&T Inc.
Nothing conclusive or anything. There were also contributions from a lot of other companies who might feel differently about the VoIP tax part of this bill, like Comcast and L3 Communications, but it's all food for thought.
So, like I said there, interesting stuff. I could theorize about how the change to the wording allows a loophole for ISPs to provide services like VoIP, TV over IP or Radio over IP tax-free while taxing equivalent services from third parties, but that'd just be a stab in the dark.
I'm not a really politically active person, I just have a lot of opinions. But I do think it's important for people to be able to easily find out what's going on with the people they elect, which is why I love OpenSecrets.org and services like Thomas. So I decided to make a couple OpenSearch plugins for Firefox that allow people to search more quickly and easily on those sites. Instead of loading the page at Thomas and at OpenSecrets you can go straight to the search results. These search plugins show up in the top right-hand corner of Firefox after they're installed. Here's the search plugin for Thomas and here's the one for Politicians at OpenSecrets.org.