The controversial SOPA and PIPA bills, which were shelved last week, after an Internet-wide protest, accrued tens of millions of dollars in lobbying money; money that, in the end, was all for naught. As traditional media companies lobbied hard for SOPA/PIPA, giving money to Congress in an effort to persuade them to pass the bill, new media companies, mostly websites, protested without spending any.
A total of 145 companies and organizations lobbied for and against SOPA, and another 157 for and against PIPA, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Lobbying has been interpreted as free speech and protected by the constitution. According to Jack Abramoff, the most important part of lobbying is access. Access is vital in lobbying, he said to NPR last year. If you can't get in your door, you can't make your case. Here we had a hostile senator, whose staff was hostile, and we had to get in. So that's the lobbyist safe-cracker method: is throw fundraisers, raise money, and become a big donor.
On January 18th, Wikipedia, Reddit, Google, and other sites raised awareness of SOPA/PIPA. Some sites blacked themselves out, but every site by posted a message espousing the dangers of the bill. And it was all free.
The Internet really flexed their muscles during this fight, and their infrastructure helped them advocate their positions that others don't have at their disposal, Michael Beckel, money-in-politics analyst at the Center for Responsive Politics, told CNN.
Even the mere threat of popular sites such as Reddit and Wikipedia blacking themselves out in protest had people talking, and when people realized the issue affected them in a tangible way, they took action. When you have an issue that is salient, and the public cares about it, the money matters less,Lee Drutman, data fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization, told CNN. Money matters more when it's a behind-closed-doors issue that hasn't faced much public scrutiny.
Companies such as Comcast, Viacom, and Time Warner each gave millions of dollars in support of SOPA/PIPA. The MPAA, RIAA, Visa, MasterCard and American Express also chipped in several millions. And though lobbying totals are rough estimates, analysts, according to CNN, said that SOPA/PIPA were the hottest issues in the fourth quarter.