Pop quiz: The Political Action Committee for which of the following companies has given the most in donations to lawmakers who have co-sponsored the Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate-counterpart, the Protect IP Act: Microsoft, eBay, Google, GoDaddy, Yahoo! or Amazon?
Think carefully: all six have come out in opposition to the bill, which would put tight restrictions on Internet firms in an effort to enforce U.S. copyright laws (although some firms took more convincing stands than others). At least two of the companies, Google and Amazon, have said they may go dark to protest the bill.
If you guessed GoDaddy, which had a public dust up after initially supporting SOPA, you're right. Sort of. GoDaddy's PAC leads in percentage, giving 52.9% of the $38,750 it has given during this election cycle to Representatives that have signed on to co-sponsor SOPA and Senators who are co-sponsoring PIPA.
In terms of sheer numbers, however, Microsoft leads, having given $88,500 to SOPA- and PIPA-sponsoring lawmakers. The PACs of all six companies have given some money to lawmakers who support the proposed legislation, and are broken down below with the amount donated to those legislators and the percentage of total giving that went to SOPA and PIPA supporters in the current campaign finance cycle:
- Microsoft $88,500 (20.9%)
- eBay $32,750 (35.5%)
- Google $29,000 (47.5%)
- GoDaddy $20,500 (52.9%)
- Yahoo! $11,000 (35.5%)
- Amazon $4,000 (42.1%)
We contacted all six companies asking for comment and requested they get back to us by 3 pm ET/noon PT on Thursday. All of the companies missed that deadline, but we'll update if any of them get back to us.
ReadWriteWeb analyzed Federal Election Commission data maintained by OpenSecret.org. While the reports are for the current election cycle, they do not list the dates of individual donations, making it hard to determine if the donations were made before or after a lawmaker signed on to co-sponsor the bills.
SOPA, and its Senate counerpart, PIPA, would force search engines and websites to block links to sites that are listed as being "dedicated" to copyright infringement. SOPA has been widely endorsed by traditional media companies, but Web firms and free speech advocates have likened it to government-enforced censorship.
Outspoken Supporters Received PAC Money
All of the donations were made in the 2012 election cycle, and individual donations ranged from $1,000 to a high of $10,000 given to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. by Microsoft. Only two SOPA/PIPA sponsoring lawmakers received donations from all six company PACs: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
Hatch, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee that unanimously approved PIPA in May, has been a long-time backer of the bill and its earlier versions.
"Fake pharmaceuticals threaten people's lives. Stolen movies, music and other products put many out of work," Hatch said in a statement posted on his Web site in May. "This is why protecting property rights is a critical imperative and is why we've come together in introducing this common-sense bill."
Goodlatte, meanwhile, made comments supporting SOPA as early as April, but didn't sign on as a co-sponsor until October.
"It is tempting to think of crimes involving counterfeiting and piracy, or intellectual property (IP) theft, as victimless, but this is simply untrue," he said a day after signing on as co-sponsor. "Piracy denies individuals who have invested in the creation and production of these goods a return on their investment thus reducing the incentive to invest in innovative products and new creative works. The end result is the loss of American jobs."
Among the SOPA/PIPA supporting lawmakers who were the biggest beneficiaries of donations from the PACs of six companies analyzed:
- Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah $15,500
- Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. $14,000
- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. $12,000
- Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas $11,000
- Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-Calif. $10,000
- Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif. $7,000
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. $7,000
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. $7,000
- Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. $7,000
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. $6,500
A complete breakdown of donations by each company's PAC to lawmakers is available.