Conflict Of Interest In Politico's Policymaker Awards?

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Tonight, Politico will host an awards ceremony honoring the political figures they consider the "Policymakers of the Year" in three different arenas: energy, healthcare, and technology.

And just who are these lucky Washington powerbrokers whom other Washington powerbrokers have deemed worthy of recognition? In the energy field, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. In healthcare, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). And in tech policy, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT).

The selection of Ryan as the healthcare "Policymaker of the Year" has raised some eyebrows, but even more interesting are the technology honorees, particularly when you look at the list of sponsors underwriting the Politico awards show.

According to Politico, Smith and Leahy are being honored for the passage of the America Invents Act, a patent reform bill, which was "the only major piece of tech legislation signed into law in 2011 -- a rare instance in which a bipartisan effort bore fruit."

Smith and Leahy are also the chief sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), respectively. Both bills, which purport to combat online piracy of copyrighted material, face opposition from big-name technology companies that fear they will stifle online innovation. Legal scholars have denounced the bills as unconstitutional and said that they are tantamount to Internet censorship. Perhaps most significantly, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) both oppose SOPA in its current form.

Just about everyone hates these bills ... but the entertainment industry loves them. And among the sponsors of the Politico awards gala is the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the video game industry's chief lobbying group. According to disclosure records, the ESA has spent thousands of dollars this year lobbying in support of PIPA, designated S.968. (For the individual filings, click here, here, here, and here.) ESA has also donated $1,000 to Smith each election cycle going back to 2008. They donated $2,400 to Leahy in 2010.

That a chief proponent of these anti-piracy bills is also a sponsor of an awards ceremony honoring the chief authors of these same bills is unseemly, to say the least, and Politico should disclose this relationship.

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