The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s lobbying arm has made contributions to 10 key lawmakers this year as online privacy pressure builds from U.S. regulators and legislators. Through August, the IAB Political Action Committee has donated $13,500 to legislators with important roles in Senate and House Committees that oversee online privacy issues, including Senator Jay Rockefeller, sponsor of a privacy bill that could have a better chance of passing than others.
In early May, Rockefeller (left), a Democrat from West Virginia, introduced his Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011. Days later on May 26, the IAB gave Friends of Jay Rockefeller $2,000. Rockefeller chairs the Senate Commerce Committee in which his bill was introduced, so it could have greater likelihood of passage.
The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission power to create standards for a mechanism allowing users to indicate personal data collection preferences. No action has been taken on the bill since it was introduced.
Another powerful Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill, received $2,000 from IAB PAC in May, according to Federal Election Commission reports. McCaskill sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, as well as the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. On the other side of the aisle, Senator Kelly Ayotte got $1,000 from the PAC in May; the New Hampshire Republican also sits on both the Senate Commerce Committee and the Technology and Internet Subcommittee.
That subcommittee is also poised to steer privacy legislation that could prevent online advertisers and publishers from tracking and targeting consumers to the extent they do today. The chairman of the Technology and Internet Subcommittee, Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, introduced his “Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011,” in April. The bill is co-sponsored by Arizona Republican John McCain.
Senate Internet Subcommittee members Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) also got donations from IAB PAC this year. Pryor was given $2,000 and Wicker $1,000.
The IAB called both the Rockefeller and the Kerry/McCain bill “overly broad” in its August 2011 Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Update newsletter.
Three members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, an important forum for online privacy related issues, were also given IAB PAC donations this year. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) each received $750, and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) – who also chairs the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology – was given $1,000.
Another repeat recipient, Rep. Chris Murphy, received a total of $2,000 from IAB PAC early this year. Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, belonged to the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet last year and is currently running for Senate. He now sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which among other things has considered pharmaceutical marketing practices.
Senator Robert Menendez, who along with Murphy and Rockefeller had received donations from IAB PAC before this year, was given $1,000 in April 2011. Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, serves on the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, which has dealt with issues that affect financial services advertisers.
In all, six privacy bills are pending in the House and Senate, though as Congress digs in its heels over government spending bills and gears up for election season, it remains unclear when or if online privacy legislation will advance before next year.