On July 9, 2008, Congress held a vote to decide whether telecom companies such as Verizon and AT&T should receive retroactive immunity for spying on Americans. The Bush Administration and telecom companies cooperated to intercept the communications of millions of Americans, without the use of a warrant.
40 lawsuits that are pending against these telecom companies would be no longer be valid if granted immunity.
The House bill passed by a large margin, 293 to 129. 94 House Democrats, who have each received at $8,000 from telecoms, originally opposed immunity, but changes their minds.
In the Senate, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Mitch McConnell (R, KY) each noted their opposition of any amendments that would take away immunity. Both supported and voted for immunity. Rockefeller said immunity would protect “national security and private and civil liberties.” McConnell said immunity would ensure “cooperation” between the government and the telecoms, and protect “against terrorist attacks.”
John McCain supported immunity, but was absent for the vote. McCain has received over $350,000 from telecom companies. McCain’s presidential rival, Barack Obama, has been criticized for changing positions on immunity. Obama has received over $200,000 in the last year from telecoms and voted for immunity.
The four aforementioned Senators and 16 others received the most contributions from telecoms, each getting at least $14,200. Only four of the 20 voted against immunity.
After the final tally, Congress granted immunity.