October 21, 2002 9:42 AM PDT

Study: Republicans dominate tech votes

Republican politicians trounced their Democratic rivals in a roundup released on Monday of congressional votes that were favorable to the technology industry.

The scorecard, compiled by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) and published in time for next month's elections, graded each member of Congress on their votes over the last two years on computer security, Internet taxes and free trade.

Ralph Hellmann, ITIC's senior vice president for government relations, said his group's practice was not to include a breakdown along partisan lines. "We would rather not make choices, because people would accuse us of skewing it one way or another," Hellmann said. "This gets attacked already. People are angry because we didn't include votes. We'll let the statistics stand on their own."

The trade association released only a list of how individual politicians voted, but an analysis performed by CNET News.com shows that House Republicans voted in accordance with the tech industry's views 89 percent of the time, compared with just 43 percent of the time for Democrats.

In the Senate, the partisan difference was not as prominent, but the same pattern emerged. Senate Democrats received a collective score of 65 percent, according to the tabulated votes, with GOP politicians garnering an 84 percent total score.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., received a zero percent score. No House member received so low a score, which would indicate that the politician never voted in the way that ITIC graded as favorable to technology companies.

Of the 10 lowest-scoring senators, with scores ranging from zero to 43 percent, eight were Democrats. The two Republicans to rank in the bottom tier were Jesse Helms of North Carolina, a frequent opponent of free trade, and Richard Shelby from Alabama.

ITIC's scorecard, named "High Tech Voting Guide for the 107th Congress," scored seven votes in the Senate and nine in the House, including trade promotion authority, free trade with China, a no-new-Internet-tax moratorium, and an education bill.

Two votes that ITIC liked--on a computer crime bill and on an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)--were controversial among civil liberties and privacy groups.

In July, the House voted for a computer crime bill that would allow for life prison sentences for malicious computer hackers and expand police ability to conduct Internet or telephone eavesdropping without obtaining a court order first. The liberal Electronic Privacy Information Center and the conservative Free Congress Foundation both opposed it, but ITIC and other business groups lobbied for the measure.

"We feel very comfortable with our stand on that," Hellman said. "We think it creates more security for the 99.9 percent of people" who are law-abiding.

EPIC and other groups also opposed rewriting FOIA to say that private firms sharing critical infrastructure information should be exempt from open-government laws. FOIA already covers sensitive or classified information, the groups said.

 

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