U.S. Chamber of Commerce influence in European Parlement
February 12, 2013 5:56 AM   Subscribe

E.U. Data Protection Directive has many proposed amendments that MEPs cut and pasted directly from American right-wing lobbyists group and ALEC member the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (previously).

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent over $136M last year lobbying for U.S. corporate interests. They have opposed action on climate change, worked against healthcare reform, opposed financial regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley, supported SOPA, and lobbied to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (previously).
posted by jeffburdges (25 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
This sits so nicely with Infini's post. Yet again Corporate America inflicts its will on the World, well, the EU part of it, via corrupt MEPs. Stay Classy America. Stay Classy EU.

Didn't someone in another recent thread talk about the political power of the people to push for reform. We are so fucked.
posted by marienbad at 6:08 AM on February 12, 2013


If only I had standing to bring a copyright complaint against the MEPs involved. The irony would be delicious.
posted by jaduncan at 6:14 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just saw this story on Hacker News yesterday - thanks for the additional background. (link)
posted by antonymous at 6:15 AM on February 12, 2013


I would tone the Outragefilter down a bit. Looking at the facts (as presented by Glyn Moody in the second link), the situation appears to be the following:
The European Commission has proposed a draft new data protection directive (to replace the current one). It is now the turn to the European Parliament to debate, amend and vote it, and some MEPs (British Conservative MEPs, as it happens) are proposing amendments that, as it happens, closely correspond to what conservative lobbyists are asking.
I'm reasonably certain that other MEPs (say, those of the Pirate Party), are proposing quite different amendments. Whether each amendment is passed or not will depend on the vote of the whole European Parliament, where the British Conservatives sit in the smallish European Conservatives and Reformists Group and consequently carry relatively little weight.
In short: if you vote conservative, "business-friendly" politicians, you are likely to get conservative, "business-friendly" policies. News at eleven.
posted by Skeptic at 6:24 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yet again Corporate America inflicts its will on the World, well, the EU part of it, via corrupt MEPs.

I don't really think "Corporate America" is the villian here. I think it's the MEPs. I mean, there are plenty of odious positions out there that do not make it into law or policy because people refuse to write them into law or policy. The issue here isn't the position, which is indeed odious, it's the writing it into law.
posted by OmieWise at 6:25 AM on February 12, 2013


Thanks. I've contacted one of the MEPs concerned (who just happens to represent the area where I live) to ask her to clarify her relationship with the lobbying organisation.

I'm sure I'll receive a professional fobbing-off. But you've got to try.
posted by pipeski at 6:29 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oops, just saw your second link opened to the link I read yesterday...
posted by antonymous at 6:30 AM on February 12, 2013


But drafting legislation is haaarrrrd. It's so much easier to use these words that someone has so thoughtfully prepared for us!

C.F. every "think tank" in the US. That's what they're for, my friends: preparing words slanted this way or the other way, so that lawmakers don't have to actually make laws (which might bruise a braincell) so much as rubber stamp the words provided by those who have their attention thanks to lots of friendly handshakes and jolly communiques about common interests.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:36 AM on February 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


BTW, MEPs introducing amendments that are directly dictated by lobbies is no new practice. Indeed, Glyn Moody himself has openly campaigned in favour of specific amendments to other proposed EU legislation which had been proposed by French pro-FLOSS lobby April and tabled by the EFA/Greens group.
posted by Skeptic at 6:36 AM on February 12, 2013


As demonstrated below the fold, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a uniquely reprehensible lobbyist organization with whom many moderate American companies like Apple refuse to be associated who lobby to simplify stuff like outright bribery. Europeans should strive to keep their own right-wing politicians from following the Chamber. It's incredibly disingenuous to equate such far-right American groups with a European OSS advocacy group.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:10 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't imagine, incidentally, that the EU is going to allow MEPs to write the actual wording of a Directive - I would have thought that had to be done by specialist lawyers in a suitable revision process, taking some general account of whatever the MEPs seemed to be mithering about (and probably much more account of whatever the Commission thought it wanted). My knowledge of these things is old and incomplete, but you surely can't let politicians directly write actual law.
posted by Segundus at 7:26 AM on February 12, 2013


It's incredibly disingenuous to equate such far-right American groups with a European OSS advocacy group.

I didn't equate them. I equated their actions in this particular case. It seems a tad hypocritical to scold MEPs for tabling amendments which have been worded by one lobby, when just a couple of months ago you were actively calling MEPs to vote for amendments which had been worded by another lobby.

Now, you may want to discuss the tabled amendments on their merits (I certainly would), but if your primary objection against these amendments is that the US Chamber of Commerce has, for instance, opposed action on climate change, that smacks a bit of "poisoning the well".
posted by Skeptic at 7:26 AM on February 12, 2013


As demonstrated below the fold, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a uniquely reprehensible lobbyist organization with whom many moderate American companies like Apple refuse to be associated who lobby to simplify stuff like outright bribery. Europeans should strive to keep their own right-wing politicians from following the Chamber. It's incredibly disingenuous to equate such far-right American groups with a European OSS advocacy group.

This is a self-congratulatory prepared speech that is unrelated to the above-the-fold content and is basically just vouching for one's own bona fides as a person of right thinking. This is MetaFilter: you're not going to find anybody sticking up for the Chamber of Commerce or retyping ALEC proposals.

If a particular amendment under discussion is bad, explain why; I'm well-acquainted with the DPD and several national implementations and I think many parts of the proposals under discussions are not nearly as well thought-out or justified as the original provisions.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:29 AM on February 12, 2013


I wouldn't imagine, incidentally, that the EU is going to allow MEPs to write the actual wording of a Directive

In the EU legislative process, the European Commission proposes new legislation, which is then debated, amended and voted at both the European Parliament and the European Council (where the representatives of the member states sit).

Directives, such as this one, must then be translated into national legislation (as opposed to Regulations, which are directly enforceable).

So, yes, MEPs can and do indeed intervene in the actual wording of a Directive, sometimes with hilarious/appalling results. It's called representative democracy and, as Otto von Bismarck once allegedly said "laws, like sausages, are more palatable if you ignore how they are made".
posted by Skeptic at 7:33 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


BTW, jeffburdges, you are poisoning the wrong well, because, as it happens, the American Chamber of Commerce in Europe (behind those amendments) and the US Chamber of Commerce (which has its own Brussels office) are different organisations.
posted by Skeptic at 7:56 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Alright, I've perhaps buried the lead here too much, but certainly the U.S. Chamber's well needs poisoning.

Anyways, I'm intrigued by this LobbyPlag, which provides analysis and diffs with the original corporate or lobbyist sources for the various amendments. Richard Gutjahr's blog post is interesting as well.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:59 AM on February 12, 2013


Well, I think you'll find the process is more complicated than that, Skeptic. See this thing, para 1.3.6 in particular, for a general description of the sort of thing I'm talking about.
posted by Segundus at 8:00 AM on February 12, 2013


It is now the turn to the European Parliament to debate, amend and vote it, and some MEPs (British Conservative MEPs, as it happens) are proposing amendments that, as it happens, closely correspond to what conservative lobbyists are asking.

The idea that it's the job of anyone in any parliament to simply act as representatives for the interests of powerful foreign corporations is disgusting. This should not be accepted by any of us as politics as usual - it's unethical and corrupt and should be shouted about from the rooftops until we stop the assholes.
posted by crayz at 8:11 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how to say this without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but wouldn't a consequence of projects like the NSA's new data center would run afoul of EU data privacy laws? I mean, that project (and others like it) is designed to record and analyze data like phone calls, emails, and other communication of "non-Americans" (which is ridiculous in its own right, but I digress), and ALEC and the US Chamber of Commerce have been very effective at getting legislation through the United States Congress. Would it make sense for the United States government's three-letter agencies to directly fund ALEC and similar lobbying projects?

Or does it make more sense for companies like Google and Facebook to ensure the data privacy laws in the US and EU are similar in order to not have to exert extra energy to comply with different sets of privacy rules?
posted by antonymous at 8:44 AM on February 12, 2013


It's pretty standard practice for lobbyists to send out mass emails with 'suggested amendments'. Happens all the time.

I've even met one lobbyist who boasted that he wrote parts of the Lisbon Treaty.
posted by quarsan at 9:01 AM on February 12, 2013


proposing amendments that, as it happens, closely correspond to what conservative lobbyists are asking.

If I had any belief at all that Malcolm Harbour in particular had properly read and understood the suggested changes I'd be a lot more sanguine. Well, I go a bit far there. I might at least think that he was acting in good faith.
posted by jaduncan at 9:15 AM on February 12, 2013


If I had any belief at all that Malcolm Harbour in particular had properly read and understood the suggested changes I'd be a lot more sanguine.

I don't have any illusion whatsoever about any of our lawmakers reading, never mind understanding, more than 20% of the laws they pass. See my Bismarck quote above.

Well, I think you'll find the process is more complicated than that, Skeptic. See this thing, para 1.3.6 in particular, for a general description of the sort of thing I'm talking about.

Well, the European Parliament's lawyer-linguists are there to help the MEPs draft something that makes some sense in all the languages of the EU. Something quite necessary, since a number of MEPs would have trouble finding their own backsides without guidance. But their role is purely advisory.

The idea that it's the job of anyone in any parliament to simply act as representatives for the interests of powerful foreign corporations is disgusting.

Maybe I'm too jaded, but I wouldn't trust most lawmakers to do even that competently...
posted by Skeptic at 10:44 AM on February 12, 2013


As an aside, the need for translation during passage probably helps the process considerably in Europe for various reasons, if only because more people must actually read it precisely.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:36 PM on February 12, 2013


EU Parliament committee caves into U.S. pressure by approvin more than 900 amendments to proposed new data protection laws
posted by jeffburdges at 2:07 AM on February 22, 2013


EU Citizens Warned Not To Use US Cloud Services Over Spying Fears
posted by jeffburdges at 7:11 AM on March 8, 2013


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