by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
April 25, 2913 (TSR) – It would appear that Rep. Mike Rogers, the main person in Congress pushing for CISPA, has kept rather quiet about a very direct conflict of interest that calls into serious question the entire bill. It would appear that Rogers’ wife stands to benefit quite a lot from the passage of CISPA, and has helped in the push to get the bill passed. It’s somewhat amazing that no one has really covered this part of the story, but it highlights, yet again, the kind of activities by folks in Congress that make the public trust Congress less and less.
It has seemed quite strange to see how strongly Rogers has been fighting for CISPA, refusing to even acknowledge the seriousness of the privacy concerns. At other times, he can’t even keep his own story straight about whether or not CISPA is about giving information to the NSA (hint: it is). And then there was the recent ridiculousness with him insisting that the only opposition to CISPA came from 14-year-old kids in their basement. Wrong and insulting.
Of course, as we’ve noted all along, all attempts at cybersecurity legislation have always been about money. Mainly, money to big defense contractors aiming to provide the government with lots of very expensive “solutions” to the cybersecurity “problem” — a problem that still has not been adequately defined beyond fake scare stories. Just last month, Rogers accidentally tweeted (and then deleted) a story about how CISPA supporters, like himself, had received 15 times more money from pro-CISPA group that the opposition had received from anti-CISPA groups.
So it seems rather interesting to note that Rogers’ wife, Kristi Clemens Rogers, was, until recently, the president and CEO of Aegis LLC a “security” defense contractor company, whom she helped to secure a $10 billion (with a b) contract with the State Department. The company describes itself as “a leading private security company, provides government and corporate clients with a full spectrum of intelligence-led, culturally-sensitive security solutions to operational and development challenges around the world.”
Hmm. Sounds like a company like that would benefit greatly to seeing a big ramp up in cybersecurity FUD around the globe, and, with it, big budgets by various government agencies to spend on such things. Indeed, just a few months ago, Rogers penned an article for Washington Life Magazine all about evil hackers trying to “steal information.” In it, there’s a line that might sound a wee-bit familiar, referring to the impression of hackers as being “the teenager in his or her parent’s basement with bunny slippers and a Mountain Dew.” Apparently, both of the Rogers really have a thing about teens in basements. The article is typical FUD, making statements with no proof, including repeating the NSA’s ridiculous allegation that hackers have led to the “greatest transfer of wealth in American history.” It’s such a good line, except that it’s completely untrue. The top US companies have recently admitted to absolutely no damage from such attacks. The article also lumps in “hacktivists” like Anonymous, as if they’re a part of this grand conspiracy that needs new laws.
Tellingly, in the print version of Washington Life that this article appeared in, which you can see embedded below, you’ll note that there’s a side bar right next to her article about the importance of passing cybersecurity legislation in Congress. Guess what’s not mentioned anywhere at all? The fact that Kristi Rogers, author of the fear-mongering article, happens to be married to Rep. Mike Rogers, the guy in charge of pushing through cybersecurity legislation. That sure seems like a rather key point, and a major conflict of interest that neither seemed interested in disclosing. Oh, and Kristi Rogers recently changed jobs as well, such that she’s now the “managing director of federal government affairs and public policies” at Manatt a big lobbying firm, where (surprise, surprise) she’s apparently focused on “executive-level problem solving in the defense and homeland security sectors.” I’m sure having CISPA in place will suddenly create plenty of demand for such problem solving.
A few months ago, on one of his FUD-filled talks about why we need cybersecurity, Rogers claimed that it was all so scary that he literally couldn’t sleep at night until CISPA was passed due to an “unusual source” threatening us. The whole statement seemed odd, until you realize that his statement came out at basically the same time as his wife’s fear-mongering article about cybersecurity. I guess when your pillow talk is made up boogeyman stories about threats that don’t actually exist, it might make it difficult to fall asleep.
Either way, even if we assume that everything here was done aboveboard — and we’re not suggesting it wasn’t — this is exactly the kind of situation that Larry Lessig has referred to as soft corruption. It’s not bags of money shifting hands, but it appears highly questionable to the public, leading the public to trust Congress a lot less. At the very least, in discussing all of this stuff, when Mrs. Rogers is writing articles that help the push for CISPA, it seems only fair to disclose that she’s married to the guy pushing for the bill. And when Mr. Rogers is pushing for the bill, it seems only right to disclose that his wife almost certainly would benefit from the bill passing. And yet, that doesn’t seem to have happened… anywhere.
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