Movie money trumps Internet cash in fight over piracy bill

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Congress is likely to leave town without a key House committee vote on the Stop Internet Piracy Act, or SOPA. If you add up the campaign contributions to co-sponsors of the bill, Hollywood trumps Internet companies by more than four to one. But at least one member discounts the influence of money on Capitol Hill.

MapLight, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics, did the math. For 18 months of campaign contributions that ended in July, the biggest pro-SOPA spenders are cable and satellite TV companies, with extra cash from TV and motion picture companies. The total: Nearly $2 million.

Microsoft kicked in the most money on the anti-SOPA side, more than $150,000. Software and Internet company contributions combined totaled more than half a million dollars.

The bill’s cosponsor Howard Berman topped the list of Californians who got movie money: more than $450,000. But fellow Democrat Zoe Lofgren of San Jose says it’s helpful to ask which came first, the chicken or the egg. "If somebody is for position A and a whole group of people in the public also agree with position A," she says, "they tend to support that candidate. So it’s not necessarily a quid pro quo."

Lofgren was surprised to find out she received about the same amount of money from both film and internet interests. "A lot of members don’t even know who’s contributed to them," she says. "They go to events, the checks go to their treasurer, they don’t know. And actually, that’s probably just as well."

Lofgrenmaintains that even if money doesn’t influence policy, it undercuts voters’ confidence in the political system.

SOPA would allow a federal judge to block internet sites that sell bootleg movies or counterfeit handbags. Internet companies say the bill goes too far.

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