Political Party Time

It's North versus South (California) in SOPA debate

Since the bills' introduction in late October, the Stop Online Piracy Act  (SOPA) (H.R. 3261) and its Senate counterpart the Protect IP Act (PIPA) (S. 968) have been met with controversy. The legislation has unleashed passions that cross party lines, as vividly illustrated in the California delegation, where the fight over SOPA has turned into battle between the North and South:  Hollywood media giants versus the heavy hitters from the tech world in Silicon Valley.

Southern California Democratic Reps. Howard Berman, Joe Baca, Karen Bass, Adam Schiff, Judy Chu and Brad Sherman and Republican Reps. Mary Bono-Mack and Elton Gallegly are proponents of the SOPA bill according to ProRepublica.

Berman has been an active supporter of SOPA since its creation. He joined Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, John Conyers, D-Mich., Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., on Capitol Hill in April for a press conference on fighting online infringement.

“The theft of American Intellectual Property not only robs those in the creative chain of adequate compensation, but it also stunts potential for economic growth, cheats our communities out of good paying jobs, and threatens future American innovation,” he said at the media event. “Today I remain as committed to this fight as ever, and I look forward to working with my colleagues – both Republicans and Democrats to protect American businesses, workers, and innovators.”

Party Time records on Berman show that he has had four fundraisers with lobbyists representing clients such as Verizon Communications, Comcast Corporation and the National Association of Broadcasters. One fundraiser in October included the Yahoo! Inc., PAC.

While Berman’s says his aim is to protect American intellectual property, his efforts also would protect a long-time and lucrative constituency in a year when the veteran lawmaker is in the fight of his political life, forced by redistricting into a battle with another powerful Democratic colleague. Berman, who has long represented parts of Hollywood as well as Studio City and Universal City, where many television shows are made, counts television, film and music among his top financial supporters, according to OpenSecrets. Those industries are also leading the fight for enactment of legislation to stop online piracy.

Another California Democrat who backs SOPA, Rep. Adam Schiff, has received contributions from of the legislation such as Comcast, Microsoft (which just announced it opposes the current draft of the bill), the Motion Picture Association of America PAC, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney, and Time Warner.

Schiff’s 29th Congressional District, which includes Burbank, is home to Warner Brothers Studios, Disney Studios, NBC Studios, and DreamWorks Animation Studios. Party Time has the invite to Schiff's  First Annual Weekend with the Stars fundraiser, scheduled for March in Los Angeles.

Among other SOPA supporters who have been feted by backers of the legislation:

Rep. Joe Baca: Jocelyn Hong, a Twenty-First Century Group lobbyist who represents clients such as Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications -- both SOPA supporters -- has hosted two fundraisers for the California Democrat.

Rep. Mary Bono-Mack: The AT&T Federal PAC hosted a fundraiser for the Palm Springs Republican in April, with tickets ranging from $1,500 for PACs and $1,000 for individuals. The AT&T Federal PAC has given $5,000 to Bono-Mack. Other proponents of SOPA, including, but not limited the Walt Disney Productions Employees PAC, the Motion Pictures Association of America PAC, Comcast Corporation PAC had made contributions to Bono-Mack.

Of the 189 opponents of the SOPA/PIPA legislation, 9 are Democrats from northern California, home of many of the tech firms that are leading the opposition to the bills. The list includes: Reps. Anna Eschoo, Mike Honda, Zoe Lofgren, Doris Matsui, Jerry McNerney, George Miller, Jackie Speirer, Pete Stark, and the leader of the House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi.

Lobbyist Dom Ruscio was one of the hosts for a breakfast reception in June for Honda. Ruscio is a lobbyist at Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis Associates LLC and one of the clients he represents is the IBM Corporation. IBM is one of many tech companies that oppose SOPA.

Lofgren's 16th congressional district covers most of the Santa Clara County, which includes the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose. Lofgren's top contributors are tech industry titans, including Google Inc., which has been a vocal opponent of SOPA.

In March, Rep. Lofgren held a Technology Industry Breakfast, with tickets starting at $2,500 for PACs and $500 for individuals.