Today’s Must Read

February 28, 2008 8:49 a.m.

You can understand their exasperation. The administration and Congressional Republicans have done everything in their power to protect the telecoms. They used every legislative tactic at the ready, made every speech or public pronouncement possible, and even engaged in occasional theatrics to drive the point home: Congress will not be passing, and the President will not be signing, any surveillance bill into law that does not give the telecoms retroactive immunity for having helped the administration break the law.

And despite all that, the telecoms still seem not to understand which side their bread is buttered on. “GOP leadership aides are grumbling that their party isn’t getting more political money from the telecommunications industry,” Roll Call reports (sub. req.):

“It’s quite discouraging,” said one GOP leadership aide, referring to the disparity in giving from the telecommunications industry in light of the FISA debate, but also the broader lack of support for Republicans from the business community in general.

“These companies just won’t do anything,” the aide said. “Even when you have the Democrats working against their bottom line.”…

[A Republican lobbyist said] “There’s no question that from time to time staff, and maybe some Members, say to fellow travelers: ‘Are you giving us some air cover? Are you helping us help you?’”

The news is not all bad. The telecoms still give more money to Republicans than to Democrats, Roll Call reports; “Of the four major phone companies, only Sprint is now favoring Democrats overall.” The other three, AT&T, Verizon and Qwest, still know their bread and butter, but are favoring Republicans “by slimmer margins than in years past.” The reason is clear: with the Dems in power, of course, the telecoms need to spread the wealth.

But the House Republican campaign committee, Roll Call points out, is $29 million poorer than its Democratic counterpart. How are the Republicans supposed to return to power if they can’t even convince companies whom they’re working to protect from billions of dollars in lawsuits to pony up?

Perhaps, as one GOP leadership aide puts it, the telecoms will find religion again when they realize “these guys are not good for business.”

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