How CISPA Opponents Were Outspent by Industry Lobbyists, 38 to 1

Brian Fung

Last week, the House approved CISPA, the House cybersecurity bill that’s long rankled privacy advocates -- not to mention the White House, which issued a presidential veto threat in response to the action.

The Obama administration’s warning is a sign that CISPA may already be dead. But for now, at least, its supporters in industry who want to be able to share information on cyber threats with the government and other companies can boast some momentum. 

It was an expensive win. According to data from the Sunlight Foundation, CISPA allies have spent $605 million on lobbying since 2011. The biggest spenders were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which blew $163 million, and AT&T, which spent $34 million. In all, 52 groups donated at least $100,000 each to members of Congress.

<a href="" mce_href="" title="CISPA Proponents" target="_blank">CISPA Proponents</a>

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Those figures dwarf the other side’s spending. Opponents of CISPA spent a grand total of $4.3 million in Congress fighting it and other measures. For a better idea of what that looks like, for every $1 spent by CISPA critics like the American Civil Liberties Union, proponents of the bill spent nearly $38.

While most everything in this battle looks similar to the one that took place last year over CISPA, there’s one key difference: a surge of Democratic support. That probably won’t change the outcome if the White House is set on rejecting the bill. It’s an indication, though, that recent rhetoric -- fueled by high-profile hacking attempts on major businesses this year -- may be having an effect.

But this might be the most important takeaway of all: Despite being vastly outspent, the bill’s opponents still hold the advantage.

Update: A Sunlight Foundation spokesperson clarifies that their dataset tracks only lobbying spending by outside groups in general -- not their spending down to specific bills or issues.