Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Did Internet Sales Tax Backers Bribe Congress? (Video)

Roblimo posted about a year and a half ago | from the money-and-politics-have-an-irresistable-attraction-for-each-other dept.

United States 317

This may be a coincidence, but according to MapLight, Senators who voted last week for the bill allowing states to directly collect taxes on sales via the Internet, AKA The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, received 40 times as much campaign donation money (yes, that's four-oh, not just four) from businesses in favor of the bill as those who voted against it received from businesses that were against Internet sales taxes. Was this bribery? Of course not! We're not some piddly fifth-world country. But it's a prime example of how money influences politics here in the good old USA, and it's far from the only one we've seen lately. In this video, MapLight Program Director Jay Costa shares a bunch more with us, along with tips on how to spot this sort of thing and some steps we voters can take to fight against both direct and indirect influence-buying. Note that all this is totally non-partisan; the politicians with the most influence -- whether local, state or federal -- get most of the available special interest money no matter what other agenda(s) they may have. And for those who want to learn more about who is spending their dollars to influence your representatives, Jay also suggests a look at these two money-in-politics resources: FollowTheMoney.org and OpenSecrets.org.

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Is it bribery? (2)

gameboyhippo (827141) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714113)

Is it bribery or do companies donate more money to politicians that agree with their policies?

Re:Is it bribery? (4, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714173)

Is it bribery or do companies donate more money to politicians that will agree with their policies?

FTFY

[ BTW, The answer to both is "yes". ]

Re:Is it bribery? (2, Insightful)

gameboyhippo (827141) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714273)

No, you didn't fix that. What I was asking is if I were a Scientologist and voted for politicians who wants to turn Kansas City into a Scientology theocracy, is it a bribe if I donate to him? He didn't change his position. He was already committed to said position.

Re: Is it bribery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714183)

Both ... are the same. They donate to those that agree with them so they can get what they want. It's like betting on a horse: if your horse gets elected your business wins.

Re: Is it bribery? (3, Insightful)

gameboyhippo (827141) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714251)

I'm not following your analogy. If I'm for a position, is it bribery when I donate to a politician that shares my views? So if I were for free municipal Internet access, is it bribery if I donate money to a politician that feels the same? Or am I required to donate to a politician that does not share my views on an issue?

Re: Is it bribery? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714335)

You are not required to pay your politicians. That's what taxes are for. Just vote for them.

Re: Is it bribery? (3, Funny)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714401)

If I'm for a position, is it bribery when I donate to a politician that shares my views?

Of course not. But I will warn you that when it turns out that the politician you're supporting does something unpopular, you're supporting that too. If you had just bribed them you'd have the excuse of saying "I don't support him I just needed him to vote ___ on S.B. 12345". See also... [diversityinc.com]

Re:Is it bribery? (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714191)

Yes, there are always two scenarios.

1) Bribery, in effect if not in the precise definition. Politicians who would have voted against it or who had no defined position received funds in direct or implied exchange for their vote.
2) Politicians who have a stated position received money from companies who benefit from that position. This is still distasteful in that it gives the people in control of the money a disproportionate say in government but doesn't rise to the same level of immorality.

So you'd think it would be relatively easy to do an analysis as to which is which. Unfortunately you also have politicians shopping for donations by taking positions which they think will bring them in.

Re:Is it bribery? (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714407)

2) Politicians who have a stated position received money from companies who benefit from that position. This is still distasteful in that it gives the people in control of the money a disproportionate say in government but doesn't rise to the same level of immorality.

Whew. I'm glad to know that my donation of money to support a candidate that says he will do what I think should be done is only distasteful and somewhat immoral. I was worried that the hope and change I paid for was something I wasn't really entitled to on moral grounds.

Re:Is it bribery? (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714417)

It also matters in how the money is spent. Money given to a politician must be spent on his election. If every penny is spent then the only thing the politician gained was the salary of the office he will hold. It is bribery if the giver builds the politician a house. It is bribery if the money is used to pay blackmail to a mistress.

Re:Is it bribery? (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714791)

It is bribery if the money is used to pay blackmail to a mistress.

Even if the mistress is a paid agent of the politician's opponents, and the blackmail payment is to outbid them? Two (or is it three?) wrongs don't make a right IMO, just wondering about other people's views on using the money counteract someone else's dirty tricks/use of bribe money...

Re:Is it bribery? (2)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714281)

It is bribery if the money is not spent on campaigns. When a politician uses the money to buy a house, a car, vacations or clothes then it is bribery. It may also be bribery in other situations. But the above is a good bright line test.

Re:Is it bribery? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714353)

This leads to a question: what happens to extra campaign money after the election? Does the guy get to keep it, or what?

Something to consider... especially if the candidate gets to keep the cash.

Re:Is it bribery? (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714533)

This leads to a question: what happens to extra campaign money after the election? Does the guy get to keep it, or what?

Something to consider... especially if the candidate gets to keep the cash.

Officially, no. Other than the prohibition on personal use, there are few limitations on how it's spent though. Needless to say, they can become pretty creative. So they can start a PAC with it and put themselves in charge with a nice salary. And yes, of course it was a bribe.

Re:Is it bribery? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714585)

Now, now, nobody puts themselves in charge of their own PAC. They don't have time for that. But their wife, brothers, sisters, cousins and top donors all have very important jobs to do and are paid top salaries to make sure they're not poached to some other PAC.

Re:Is it bribery? (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714343)

Is it bribery or do companies donate more money to politicians that agree with their policies?

Why should companies and especially corporations be allowed to donate money? Only private citizens should have that right, and I dare say, those in or running for public office should be allowed to take from those they represent.

Run for Senate in Pennsylvania, the law should be that they accept only from PA citizens. Running to represent district 5 in NY? Please only accept from distric 5 residents. Otherwise we have Senators from Delaware representing Hollywood's interests and not his own constituents. Joe Biden, I'm looking at you.

Re:Is it bribery? (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714683)

Why should companies and especially corporations be allowed to donate money? Only private citizens should have that right,

Somehow corporations are citizens these days. Or at least when it's convenient for them. In the case of campaign donations, they have the same, or better rights than you or I. However when it comes to criminal liability, they aren't so interested in that aspect of citizenship. I think that if they have the same free speech and campaign donation rights, then they should also have the same responsibility we do when they behave criminally. The CEO, or who ever was involved in committing a crime should go to prison just like any other citizen. Too bad they pay to have the laws work in their favor.

and I dare say, those in or running for public office should be allowed to take from those they represent.

Run for Senate in Pennsylvania, the law should be that they accept only from PA citizens. Running to represent district 5 in NY? Please only accept from distric 5 residents. Otherwise we have Senators from Delaware representing Hollywood's interests and not his own constituents. Joe Biden, I'm looking at you.

How else are these (morally bankrupt) rich bastards going to make more money doing nothing useful to society?

Support your government, buy a congressman!

Re:Is it bribery? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714685)

Run for Senate in Pennsylvania, the law should be that they accept only from PA citizens. Running to represent district 5 in NY? Please only accept from distric 5 residents. Otherwise we have Senators from Delaware representing Hollywood's interests and not his own constituents. Joe Biden, I'm looking at you.

While it's an intriguing idea it's impossible in practice. The guys in hollywood will just run the ads on their own without giving the money to the election campaign.

Re:Is it bribery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714711)

Nice theory. In reality, by law, companies can force their employees to campaign for candidates employer likes.

Re:Is it bribery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714739)

Most special interests are support by people.

The NRA for example gets money from its membership dues and other programs to get money out of its members. The NRA then donates on behalf of all of its members and highers lawyers to make suggested legislation for government officials. It's many individuals money coming together to make a crowd into 1 voice.

This is the main purpose of special interest groups. To make hundreds or thousands of voices 1 voice on capitol hill. I'm not sure if it's the best way of doing it, but it's certainly better than every would be member of like minded people flooding the presidents/congressman's desk with the same opinion. Instead, the NRA (continuing example) tell congressman of district 9 he has X% of voters in the district would want Y legislation.

I know there are very rich groups looking out for the very rich but you can't stamp them out without stamping on the groups that actually represent large voting blocks.

Re:Is it bribery? (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714351)

The venue to channel the money exists, so is it really that surprising that companies use it?

Bribery here would be paying a politician to change their view on the internet sales tax, however that's not what's happening so the title is very leading... in a very wrong direction.

Re:Is it bribery? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714747)

Your definition of bribery, perhaps thanks to wikipedia, makes you arrive at wrong conclusions. Here's more complete definition:
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/bribe
bribe (brb)
n.
1. Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that person's views or conduct.
2. Something serving to influence or persuade.

As you can see INFLUENCE is the key word.

Re:Is it bribery? (1)

Kenja (541830) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714445)

It's not bribery, it's free speech!

Re:Is it bribery? (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714523)

Does it matter? Money is a corrupting influence no matter what. The only thing a Senator should concern himself with is the merit of the arguments for and against.

Donations to public officials should be completely illegal for this reason. Fund campaigns with public money exclusively, and you'll save a lot more than you spend when you reap the benefits of good policy.

Re:Is it bribery? (2)

komodo685 (2920329) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714731)

Is it bribery or do companies donate more money to politicians that agree with their policies?

In this case, and many others, probably bribery.
On a more general note Lawence Lessig has a good amount to say about reducing corruption in American politics.
http://www.ted.com/talks/lawrence_lessig_we_the_people_and_the_republic_we_must_reclaim.html [ted.com]
I don't remember if he covers it in that talk but somewhere I have heard him give an example where a state(?) imposed a system that judges, when running for election, (yes judges do in some states) could only accept donations under a scheme where

  1. A) they could not see how much money was donated
  2. B) even if told it didn't matter because the donator could withdraw their amount (in some time frame) so it was unverifiable and
  3. C) the donation was spit out to their campaign in random amounts over several bursts combined with other donations, further obscuring donations

I believe this was eventually cancelled because judges suddenly weren't getting any campaign contributions.
If someone could give some links to those points I'd appreciate it. I'm just going by a half remembered ted talk and daily show interview.

Companies/individuals could claim that they were merely supporting the politicians because he/she already believed as they did and not that those companies/individuals were bribing the politicians into a new position, which other commenters have pointed out.
What seems like a good solution (and I believe is more or less what LL advocates) would be a combination of,

  1. 1) only individuals (human beings) can donate to campaigns,
  2. 2) all contributions must be donated via an anonymous system as above,
  3. 3) the amount a person can donate is not only fixed but in fact paid for by the government from taxes -- each person has the same $$$ to donate.

To not fix the amount a person can donate at a flat rate, is a triumph for capitalism but a deep wound for democracy. Which do you value more?

Lobbying == Bribery (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714127)

A horse of a different color is still a horse, of course of course.

Re:Lobbying == Bribery (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714287)

or, ""lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig"

Who owns Congress? (1)

SpaceManFlip (2720507) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714129)

You ask, did [the big rich corporations] bribe Senators to [make them get richer] ???

OF COURSE THEY DID! DUH.

This is exactly what's wrong with the size of these corporations and the corruption of our government system in the USA - the amount of influence they can buy over our "Representatives"

Re:Who owns Congress? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714267)

You ask, did [the big rich corporations] bribe Senators to [make them get richer] ???

Note that many of the organizations bribing Senators were...Unions (especially government workers' union).

Plus there were the barbers and beauticians (or the owners of the shops, anyway), though what interest they had in this I can't figure out.

And the various governments at lower levels - I can at least understand the governments that were going to benefit bribing like mad.

Re:Who owns Congress? (1)

countach44 (790998) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714633)

I'd like to add a litte more along these lines:
As suggested, taking a look at Opensecrets shows that big money in politics does come, in a large part, from unions: http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php [opensecrets.org]
So, a lot of big money in politics comes from unions and goes mainly to the Democratic party (at least the top 15 or so), which may be contrary to the only big corporation and Republicans thing most of us expect (especially from all those Obama campaign emails I get about "grassroots").
What the big unions do is strongarm you as a young person into becoming a VIP member (whose fee is eligible for political contributions) and then don't give you a say. Also, when layoffs happen, you're the first to go since the ONLY thing that matters is seniority. Sadly, when it comes to many things, the big unions don't look too different from the big businesses.

If you want campaign finance reform (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714139)

You need to fix the problems with elections themselves. Safe districts make easily manipulated legislators not just in bed with lobbyists but married to them for decades.

Any of the following would work:
Increasing the number of representatives in the house by a factor of ~100
Defining a countrywide party agnostic algorithm for automatically creating districts
Moving to proportional representation(this one would also fix the 2 party problem).

There are lots of other approaches, I'd support yours, if it dealt with this problem. Just support some kind of fix.

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714239)

There are lots of other approaches, I'd support yours, if it dealt with this problem. Just support some kind of fix.

The real problem being, of course, that the people in charge of implementing such changes are the same ones who profit from not doing so.

That being known, how do we fix it?

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714303)

Defining a countrywide party agnostic algorithm for automatically creating districts

Can you say "Voting Rights Act"?

Sure you can...

As long as the Voting Rights Act is law, there are a great many districts (the Old South, a couple in New York, others scattered about the country) that CANNOT be changed to be "Party agnostic" without approval of the Federal Courts (effectively, the Supreme Court, since any such change WILL be appealed all the way to the Supremes).

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714481)

What's your point? Congress is perfectly free to revoke old laws, or pass new ones that conflict with old ones to the point that it creates situations where all possible actions are illegal. Theoretically the constitution holds them somewhat in check, but that's about the only limitation on their law-making powers.

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714677)

You're obviously unaware of what, exactly, the Voting Rights Act is...

Hint: no Democrat, EVER, will vote for its repeal. If for no other reason than that the gerrymandering by the VRA represents guaranteed Dem votes.

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714603)

Sure you can, you just have to remember to separate the algorithms for partisanship from race. Race isn't inherently tied to any given political party.

Oh sure, the Republicans want to sell the story about black racism because they didn't vote for Romney, but that's just to cover up their own exploitation of racism among many whites.

If they could no longer gerrymander districts elsewhere, maybe they'd stop pretending they don't shoulder any responsibility for why blacks aren't voting for them.

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714743)

Sure you can, you just have to remember to separate the algorithms for partisanship from race. Race isn't inherently tied to any given political party.

Forget Romney. When was the last time the black vote did NOT go Democratic?

Ditto hispanic vote?

If they could no longer gerrymander districts elsewhere, maybe they'd stop pretending they don't shoulder any responsibility for why blacks aren't voting for them.

You seem unaware that the VRA was a Democrat thing, not a Republican thing. Part of Johnson's Great Society...

Note, by the by, that the VRA does a lot of useful things - outlawing literacy tests for voting was a good enough reason by itself to pass the bill. But the "your districting has to be approved by a Federal Court till the end of time" was a bit beyond the pale....

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714749)

Gawd, I'm losing my grip on my html tags again. I need some booze...

Alas, still not allowed to have any....

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714405)

No term limits. No incumbents. No exceptions.

You can hold public office as many times as you can get elected, but never twice in a row, not even to step in for an incapacitated officeholder (e.g. the VP when the POTUS is no longer capable of carrying out his duties. If the VP was the previous POTUS, he can't be POTUS again until the end of the current term. Succession goes to the next in line until someone is found to be eligible.).

That puts a serious crimp in cronyism, and would constantly open the door to competitors.

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714545)

An interesting proposal, though I would suggest that for a position like VP, whose primary purpose is to be on-call to replace the president if necessary, being elgible to actually do so would be a requirement for the office. I suspect most players would still be corporate sock-puppets, and it would do nothing to close the revolving-door between congress and lobbiest organizations (might even strengthen that one), but still, it could be part of the solution.

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714649)

This is not unlike the current Russian system, and it doesn't seem to be working for Russia; you just end up with Putin and Putin's sock puppet trading places between President and Prime Minister every term.

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714773)

That puts a serious crimp in cronyism, and would constantly open the door to competitors...see Putin.

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714425)

But if the districts were determined by a logical algorithm, how could the politicians Gerrymander the elections? Politicians need job security too!!! /sarcasm

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714525)

How about removeing power from the federal branch of goverment to state goverment.

Re:If you want campaign finance reform (1)

tomkost (944194) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714709)

A good post with great ideas, all of which I'd support. But you have go one step further. There is an election before the general election. Not the primary election but the one where the special interests can fund the candidates they want to get elected. This means you only get to choose from pre-bought candidates. So it's hard to get a politician to vote for your fixes because the pool of potential candidates is limited to those who can get enough campaign contributions from the special interests. It's an insidious problem that is pervasive throughout the system. Getting it out of one area will just lead to it the other areas recontaminating everything. Some of this is discussed in an excellent TED talk. http://www.ted.com/talks/lawrence_lessig_we_the_people_and_the_republic_we_must_reclaim.html [ted.com]

other factors (3, Interesting)

novium (1680776) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714153)

I'm not sure this is the best example, because congresspeople would have another incentive to support the measure: all of their home town local shops will have also been calling them up (and directing their customers to do so as well) in support of it, at least I'd guess so. I've been to enough town meeting type things where there was a lot of talk about "buy local!" and such because the local businesses were being so undercut by the big internet giants (who also weren't paying sales tax). It's the kind of thing that riles up city councils everywhere.

Re:other factors (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714189)

I don't doubt you are correct, by why don't they call their representatives to ask for a lower or zero sales tax instead?

Re:other factors (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714393)

I don't doubt you are correct, by why don't they call their representatives to ask for a lower or zero sales tax instead?

...because the interests that benefit** from that sales tax will immediately start screaming about how the lack of sales tax will starve children, make them illiterate, let your house burn down because firefighters can't be hired, etc etc. They'll of course be joined in chorus by every politician who spends that money.

Good luck fighting that kind of hysterical response.
Mind you, I live in Oregon, which has no sales tax (unless you buy gasoline, tobacco, or suchlike.)

** Note: These interests outside of government are usually teacher unions, firefighter unions, police unions, etc.

Re:other factors (1)

luminousone11 (2472748) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714673)

In most States "teacher unions, firefighter unions, police unions, etc." are paid out of income taxes, property taxes and property taxes. Sales tax generally go into State general funds, and are used non-road infrastructure, road infrastructure, back funding of income tax cuts, Medicaid, and frivolous lawsuits over things like nullification of federal laws(albeit in Utah the States School land fund is used for this)

Re:other factors (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714663)

I'm not sure this is the best example, because congresspeople would have another incentive to support the measure: all of their home town local shops will have also been calling them up (and directing their customers to do so as well) in support of it, at least I'd guess so. I've been to enough town meeting type things where there was a lot of talk about "buy local!" and such because the local businesses were being so undercut by the big internet giants (who also weren't paying sales tax). It's the kind of thing that riles up city councils everywhere.

Yeah, I think this is more a case of many, many businesses feeling that they indeed do need to support this and as an end result the lobby cash for it being fairly sizable.

Frankly, it's been pretty ridiculous state of things you've had in USA. Oh only if I could order things from Sweden without VAT and swedes would order things from Finland without VAT - and totally without customs(I can in real life order without VAT to Finland from say, USA.. but I'll be slapped customs and VAT when I receive it, provided it's more than about 28 euros - which is the same a Finnish company would pay - and no of course I can't order without vat and customs from Sweden without performing fraud to make it happen). From the point of the view of the world that would make no sense at all that it would be cheaper for me to order from over the gulf, screwing over effective logistics, intended taxation and a whole lot of other things.

Yet the corporate megamoth Amazon was allowed to flourish and build it's base by the simple advantage of being able to skip sales taxes in USA by abusing the system that has no checks at all in place that the customer pays the taxes. I would say that bribery kept it operating this long in that way .

oh and while at it make it a federal law that displayed prices in shops would include the sales taxes. it's fucking ridiculous, if you want a straight up example of what's wrong with the USA today it's 99c stores that charge 1.13(or whatever) for an item - the customer can't dodge paying it at the counter, so just fucking display the actual price.

of course you can have many opinions about sales taxes in general, but if you're going to tax spending then fucking at least do it consistently, and frankly the system is at such a state(due to the internet tubes and zero lag price shopping over the entire globe) that if you're going to have any sales tax, then the only good choice is to have it the same all over in the same customs zone, then it's easily enforceable and doesn't create a situation of some backwater town going indian and providing a base for mail order tax dodges, which fucks up logistics which make actual sense.

The Golden Rule strikes again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714157)

For those that don't already know it: "He who has the gold makes the rules."

Shocker. _||.|

Of course they did (5, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714169)

Proof: The bill got passed with bipartisan support.

Re:Of course they did (1)

game kid (805301) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714345)

I'm so glad they came to a buypartisan [duckduckgo.com] agreement.

The bill's text (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714175)

I searched for this at thomas.loc.gov last night and found the bill text that's entering the House (as far as I know, I think this is the right one):
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:H.R.684:

Aside from the taxation issue (which I'll avoid discussing because I don't want to start a flame war here), the biggest problem with this bill is that it's going to be a *nightmare* to implement. It says that each state will have to implement it's own "software" (undefined) which I can only assume would be a REST-style API. That means that if you're going to be legal, under this bill, you have to integrate with not one, but FIFTY separate APIs.

That's why this bill is an obvious attempt by the big guys who can absorb that kind of cost to crowd out medium-sized retailers by forcing them to lose profit or raise prices to comply with the law, and in either case be less competitive. It's just the latest in a long run of attempts to manipulate congress to shut down competition from small and medium business so that the big guys can still get away with over-charging. Limit competition and you can increase your margins, basically.

For the record, I wrote my representative last night voicing this point of view and asking for a "no" vote.

Re:The bill's text (1)

DogDude (805747) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714473)

It isn't tough to implement. Its just software. I'm sure it'll be built into all existing eCommerce platform shortly. If a business can't collect taxes properly, they shouldn't be in business.

Re:The bill's text (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714549)

You won't have to. A third party will write their own software that will integrate with those 50 state APIs. You'll then be able to call their one API and get the tax rate, for a fee. If nobody else writes this I will and rake in the money.

Re:The bill's text (1)

DogDude (805747) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714715)

I'd bet any amount of money that Intuit already has a service ready to go to take care of this. They already have a service that takes care of tracking the myriad of payroll taxes.

Re:The bill's text (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714779)

So instead of just paying a lot of money to the states, we have to pay a lot of money to you AND pay a lot of money to the states. Bonus.

In other breaking news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714185)

When I fart, it smells bad. Seriously, who didn't know this already?

Does anyone care (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714195)

OpenSecret.org has been around for what, nearly two decades now, and the American people have shown that they are not interested. Apparently the system works, as angry as it may make a few slacktivists. Give it up already with trying to manufacture outrage.

It's not bribery FFS (5, Funny)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714213)

It's LOBBYING. They're just expressing the free speech rights of the megacorporations they represent to influence the outcome of elections to select people who will do their bidding.

There's a difference.

Re:It's not bribery FFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714293)

It's BRIBERY. They're gaining a material benefit to vote according to the payers' desires.

Re:It's not bribery FFS (1)

WillgasM (1646719) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714369)

+1 Woosh!
Sarcasm was so prevalent and readily recognized when I was growing up. How many generations before we're all autistic?

Re:It's not bribery FFS (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714765)

Indeed. It's seriously getting a little scary.

Real Estate??? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714227)

What I want to know is why Real Estate & Developers/Subdividers/Agents spend better than $25 Million influencing this legislation.

It's not like anyone can save on sales tax by buying real estate over the internet....

Re:Real Estate??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714317)

Tax rates affect housing values. Realtors want tax payments more uniform.

For example, New Jersey has high property taxes, but some of it is offset by the state sales tax. Realtors want sales tax payments instead.

Also, the local sales tax can drive away home buyers, when they're the only ones to pay it. California has city-level sales tax. If that tax is spread out to Internet purchases, then more goes to the town from outside.

40 times (3, Insightful)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714253)

The 40 times number is meaningless without further context. The majority of buisnesses collect sales tax. Of course those people would support removing the loop hole that prevents sales tax from being collected on internet purchases.

Re:40 times (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714441)

Hmm, $7 million or so just from governments, government employees, and assorted government employee unions.

That alone is 5x as much as the other side spent.

$28 million from real estate interests. 20x as much as the other side spent.

$5 million from publishers of books/periodicals/magazines - not sure why this matters to them, since they get the same return selling a book online as in a B&M store.

Local businesses and trade associations seem to pretty much cover the rest.

Though why veterinarians have any interest in the subject one way or another, I haven't a clue - not like you're going to mail your pet to New Hampshire to get his shots....

Re:40 times (1)

Roblimo (357) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714771)

Pet meds. Lots higher from the vet than online, same as human meds.

Addendum (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714527)

The really big disparities in contributions, interestingly enough, came from the various Unions, especially public worker unions - they tended to come down on the "we want this new tax" by very large percentages (90% for, 10% against, as an example - most weren't quite that extreme, some were rather more extreme).

Nice question (3, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714279)

At least for someone that not followed the news the last, don't know, 20 years? You mean that you never doubted all the other major laws in last years hadn't any major bribe or similar behind?

What a waste of bits (1)

jfengel (409917) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714297)

I'm having a hard time sorting out their methodology, but it looks as if the problem is that there just weren't any "anti-" groups opposing the measure, at least by their calculation. They totted up only $1.4 million spent by all the "anti-" groups, which is practically nothing compared to the billions spent on all of the Senate campaigns put together.

Neither, in fact, is that $55M spent by "pro-" groups all that large. This is the problem with the "campaign fund bribery" theory. These groups are heavily constrained in how much money they can give, just $10,000 to each candidate. These candidates need millions.

http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/contriblimits.shtml [fec.gov]

Their contributions just aren't big enough to make a bribe. It's not even enough to get them to take a meeting with you. Rather, it's the other way around: they contribute to the candidates that they want to see win the election.

EVERYBODY on this list got more money from the "pro-" groups than from the "anti-" groups. Kelly Ayotte voted no; she got $326,335, compared to $31,751. Mike Crapo, $181,414 vs $15,020. Ted Cruz, $529,897 vs $19,050.

What this data indicates, if anything, is that there just weren't many groups who opposed this. The direct marketers, the catalog sales, and computer manufacturers. That's it. Weren't there any consumer groups? Consumers are the ones who pay the tax. None of the consumer groups took a stand? Or did their crappy methodology just miss them?

Re:What a waste of bits (3, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714637)

Kind of hard for consumer groups to get up in arms either - after all you're already legally required to pay sales tax on everything you buy online, it's just that nobody actually does so. What would the consumer groups lobby on - the ability of citizens to break the law on a regular basis with impunity? In principle this legislation is simply moving responsibility for paying sales tax from the private citizens who aren't living up to their legal responsibility to the businesses which are profitting from their customer's illegal behavior.

Re:What a waste of bits (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714651)

Do note that not everyone who is offered a bribe actually does what you bribed him/her to do.

Especially politicians, many of whom are notorious for taking money from anyone at all, and voting in fvour of the last guy to "advise" him/her on the subject.

Quelle surprise! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714301)

America is an oligarchy. Quelle surprise! This is why I don't even bother wasting my time to vote any more.

Re:Quelle surprise! (1)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714403)

Technically the US is more of a plutocracy now. The great part about using that term is that it's already tied to Nazi propaganda about jews in America, so you provide a direct path to Godwin the discussion by mentioning it.

Yes, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714321)

Yes, the Internet sales tax backers bribed Congress.

So did the Internet sales tax opponents. They were just less successful.

Our system is pretty fucked up. But criticize the system; don't try to justify one side in a dispute by arguing that the other side bribed Congress, because in essentially every dispute, both sides do it.

All politics is local. (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714329)

Senators who voted last week for the bill allowing states to directly collect taxes on sales via the Internet, AKA The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, received 40 times as much campaign donation money (yes, that's four-oh, not just four) from businesses in favor of the bill as those who voted against it received from businesses that were against Internet sales taxes. Was this bribery? Of course not!

How many businesses in your state have significant out of state sales?

How many people do online retailers employ in your state, how much revenues do these retailers generate for state and local government?

Direction of causality (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714331)

The direction of causality could easily be the opposite way around. If a candidate is known to be pro-internet-tax, then a pro-internet-tax business has reason to contribute to their campaign.

Re:Direction of causality (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714675)

Yeah, but how many candidates give a flying f^ck about internet sales tax? Or copyright law? Or...or...or... What really happens is they'll take whatever position will likely net them the most campaign contributions for virtually all the marginal "causes" that won't cost them significant votes.

At some point, civil disobedience is the only way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714363)

At some point, civil disobedience is the only way. You have to do some things that would ordinarily be crimes. Not murder or anything really violent. Just illegal, like pulling an offending product off the shelf and throwing it on the floor, or telling the driver to get out of the truck so that you can dump it all in the parking lot. That's not really very good though. It's got to be as close to your ordinary life as possible, and yet illegal.

You see? This is the problem. The powers that be learned how to prevent resistance. In the Civil Rights era, just sitting down on a bus or at a lunch counter was protest. Thousands of people could violate it, and they could fill the jails and create chaos until the Feds had to come in.

The powerful, they learned from that. They've got it down so that there's no real point of friction between us and them. There's no convenient interface between the oppressed and the oppressors. It makes protest difficult... but not impossible.

At some point, they'll go too far, and there will be an interface that's convenient.

What is the primary function of politicians? (2)

sir_eccles (1235902) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714377)

It should be to serve the country, passing laws for the positive benefit of the people as a whole.

What it ends up being is trying to get re-elected because then those nice people keep dropping off envelopes stuffed with cash.

Equally hard questions to answer (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714391)

Is the sky blue?
Is the Easter Bunny real?
Do babies come from a stork?
Is this politician lying?

Constitution Amended (0)

cphilo (768807) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714397)

Old Version: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. New Version as approved by SCOTUS: We the Lobbyists of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Corporation, establish Profitable Trade, insure domestic (and foreign) Profits, provide for the common stockholder, promote the general Welfare of our CEOs, and secure the Blessings of Wealth to ourselves and our Posterity (only), do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Why not add a Constitution Amendment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714469)

Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]

Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

-- Proposed 28th Amendment [movetoamend.org]

50 years ago (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714421)

50 years ago this would have been a major scandal. Now it's "ho hum business as usual." This country is fucked.

Re:50 years ago (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714543)

50 Years ago it would have happened, the only difference would have been the press would have willingly refused to report on it. There was no golden age in politics and only idiots think there ever was. Half the names we call dirty politicians are the names of former politicians from a hundred years ago that pioneered the dirty tactic named after him.

I get really tired of you kids believing that politics is any different than it has ever been.

Frankly sales tax is the one tax that everyone should pay without exception. There are very few states in the union where sales tax isn't directly funding your police, fire and local city directly. Most states pass that revenue on directly to your local cities. It's never been fair to ask local business to pay the tax and refuse to require it of internet businesses. In the days of the internet and software it's not at all difficult for these businesses to collect and remit the tax to the states.

Re:50 years ago (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714615)

It's never been fair to ask local business to pay the tax and refuse to require it of internet businesses.

So, you think that, say, a French business should have to collect sales tax on behalf of the part of the government of the part of the Parish I live in?

Interesting theory, that.

Huh? (5, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714435)

This statistic, as presented, proves pretty much nothing.

Look, I'll cheerfully agree that our congresspeople are largely nicely-dressed whores who apparently will vote whichever way they're funded, but the statistics presented here are so confused as to be nearly meaningless.

The total given by those in favor may have been 40x that given against.
Then again, this could be (viewed objectively) simply a groundswell of opinion in favor.

I look at my senators (both D-MN):
Amy Klobuchar took $532,457 from those in favor, $16,298 from those opposed. ~30x as much.
Al Franken took $858,186:$11,400 almost 90x.
Two SOLID yes votes, as they vote mindless lockstep with their party.

Yet Jeff Flake (R-AZ), he received $588,966 $2,800 - a staggering 200x in favor, and voted "NO".

Mark Kirk (R-IL) $1,076,621to $28,200 or some 35x in favor, another "NO" vote.

So it doesn't seem that the wierdly-presented statistic of how much more one guy got from one side vs the other controls which way they voted.

I'd argue from opensecrets.org that the link between money and legislation is so obvious that it's hard to imagine that anyone could present it in a way that's NOT conclusive...like maplight managed to....

Re:Huh? (1)

hackingbear (988354) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714713)

Yet Jeff Flake (R-AZ), he received $588,966 $2,800 - a staggering 200x in favor, and voted "NO".

Mark Kirk (R-IL) $1,076,621to $28,200 or some 35x in favor, another "NO" vote.

But maybe 200X got them not to start filibuster the bill? If you don't pay enough, the R will filibuster to block it; if you do pay enough, the R will not filibuster but blame the D.

Acceptable Corruption (1)

ThePeices (635180) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714465)

" Was this bribery? Of course not! "

Of course? How is it obvious that it is not bribery? I dont see anything obvious as to why it is not.

Giving a politician money for the purpose of influencing said politicians support of legislation is corruption, fair and square.

There are no ifs or buts, it is corruption.

And this corruption is so widespread, and so accepted ( and even expected ), that the American people think nothing of it, and accept it as simply a part of doing politics.

Leader of the Free World my ass.

I live in a first world western democracy, and here, this sort of corruption is illegal. Why is this allowed in the USA?

Re:Acceptable Corruption (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714579)

I live in a first world western democracy, and here, this sort of corruption is illegal. Why is this allowed in the USA?

Campaign contributions like this are legal in most of Europe, so chances are you're just ill-informed.

Care to disclose where you live and where you think this sort of thing is illegal?

not bribery (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714535)

Bribery is something that's done clandestinely; this obviously wasn't.

If you don't like it, make an issue out of it next time these people run for Congress.

Welcome to the Market Economy (1)

RichMan (8097) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714611)

Everything is for sale, including the laws.

Not paying sales tax is ILLEGAL in most states (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714641)

Unless your state doesn't have any sales taxes, you are breaking the law (almost always) by buying out of state and not paying "use tax", unless you self identify and pay the use tax. (Exceptions for purchases of goods for resale and some other exceptions exist.) I'm generally against any tax.. but if people are dumb enough to enact incredible high sales tax rates (like the 8.5% we have in CA) we should at least make sure people aren't given an easy way to avoid it.

Re:Not paying sales tax is ILLEGAL in most states (1)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714783)

Let's not kid ourselves, almost nobody pays the use tax.

Its only a matter of time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714643)

Was this bribery? Of course not! We're not some piddly fifth-world country.

Yes you are and yes it is.

Of course it's bribery (4, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | about a year and a half ago | (#43714647)

You Americans are the only country in the world that pretends outrageous "campaign contributions" aren't bribery.

Could someone explain for me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714769)

Could someone explain for me why this is a bad thing?

Taxes are good. The government needs taxes to provide revenue so that it can spend on entitlement programs.

If it takes a little corruption to make the rich fatcat 1%-er mucketymucks pay their "fair share," then what's the big deal? I mean... the government needs money to pay for all the entitlements we've demanded they provide for us, right? And they have to get that money from somewhere, right?

So what's wrong with more taxes? I would think Slashdot would be crowing about how wonderful it is that the rich will pay more taxes to help fund programs for the 99%.

Best Government... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43714785)

...that money can buy!

You can bank on that.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?