Massachusetts Senate Race: Senator Ed Markey vs. Representative Joe Kennedy
By Kirstin Beatty, 2020 April 17 ~ updated (again) 2020 June 30
Please note, we initially made one early mistake in examining the NFIB scorecard, by confusing Rep. Joe Kennedy with Sen. John Kennedy, the latter being a Louisiana Republican and who has quite different stances than Rep. Joe Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.
Our Purpose: Our investigation was to try to get an idea of which legislator might do more to protect consumers from electromagnetic exposures from either utilities or telecommunications infrastructure.
Short Summary: Both Markey and Kennedy have made vague overtures of support. Yet, neither Markey or Kennedy have put forward concrete legislation to regulate wireless for health effects or even to protect local zoning rights in relation to cell towers and cellular infrastructure. In contrast, both federal Rep. Neal and Rep. McGovern have signed on to legislation protecting local zoning control.
Worse, Markey authored the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and without remorse to this day, and for that ought to be last choice on this issue. Further, despite being warned of health impacts, Markey supports broadband funding irrespective of wireless health regulations.
Kennedy did sign onto a letter that opposes the rapidly changing rules of the FCC, as these new rules fail to give municipalities time to adapt ordinances or give much time to examine 5G permit applications. However, this letter is only a political statement that sidesteps or fails to specifically address public health impacts. Asking for extra time for permit review does little to stop the cellular infrastructure in our front yards. He has, however, usefully critiqued Markey on the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Legislation to change the act, rather than words, would be welcome.
Markey has a position on the Senate telecommunications committee, which means he has knowledge in the area and could help effect some change if he understood and wished to do so. He does have a recent history of making decisions contrary to IT interests in the areas of privacy and security that appear positive for the people. He appears to be more interested in broad telecommunications regulation and has put forward some rather specific, detailed bills for this purpose. However, he was also a lead sponsor of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was a terrible bill for many reasons, including that environmental health impacts were not allowed to be considered in local zoning decisions of cell towers. Markey has not admitted this controversial bill was problematic, and continues to state he was proud to foster competition by breaking up the public telephone system. In fact, telecommunications is a ruthless, barely regulated monopoly – barely competitive and so consumers have few options and little standing.
While Kennedy has a position on an energy committee, there simply isn’t as much evidence of consistent attention to or legislation proposed for energy, utilities, or telecommunications. On other topics, he has put forward some legislation that indicates he is not an industry stooge but generally in other arenas such as human rights, such as a LGBTQ protections (which Markey has also supported) or the right to a lawyer in civil suits or the right to health coverage during the pandemic. On the campaign trail, Kennedy has critiqued Markey’s 1996 Telecommunication Act. Kennedy, Markey and other New England legislators have put forward some relevant telecommunications and utility legislation together, such as legislation to reduce the rates that consumers pay on electricity. Kennedy has also put forward legislation that supported innovative technologies, an idea that seems to be popular among politicians and is marketed as good for business, jobs, even national defense. However, less innovation and a lot more safety testing in advance of entering the consumer market would be welcome.
Kennedy’s reason to run: Clearly, Kennedy benefits by running now, instead of in a crowded field after Markey quits.
Secondly, Kennedy states that Markey has failed to stump for Democrats in other states, and that Kennedy would because now, more than ever, removing Republicans from office is the most important objective.
Here are our findings after checking submitted legislation, scorecards, and votes:
- External scorecards: Markey and Kennedy had basically the same scores on all scorecards we checked (see our list below).
- General Voting Records: Kennedy has been a yes vote for many bills promoted by the current Democratically-controlled House. He is a so-called moderate as identified by GovTrackUS. He cosponsored the Right to Organize Act and Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019.
- General Voting Records: Markey has voted yes on very little put forward by the Republican-controlled Senate. He has voted yes on popular bills such as opioid relief and put forward bills to restrict data collection, prevent ionizing radiation exposure, and improve fuel efficiency. Markey is identified as a so-called liberal by GovTrackUS. Left-wing groups have rallied behind Markey.
- Follow the Money dot Org Comparison: For 2020 as of April 27, both share Dell Technologies donations (10K – Markey, 9K – Kennedy). Follow the Money has more data, but it is best to look at the site itself.
- Supporters: Markey has support from Rep. Alexandra Ocasia-Cortez and Rep. Ro Khanna, Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign co-chair
- Kennedy’s Technology Stance, Funding, & Influence:
- Some relevant sponsorship and voting record information:
- Kennedy put forward a utility bill to allow impacted parties a hearing, since inaction by FERC currently limits access.
- Kennedy voted against HR 1431, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017, which was designed to limit industry influence and also increase transparency of EPA officials. This bill passed the House but the votes were tight.
- Supporting HR. 2996 in 2014 to advance with financial & educational support domestic “manufacturing, innovation and technology” connected to small- and medium-sized enterprises advancing new processes and technologies
- With 197 other sponsors, Kennedy cosponsored HR 1644 in 2019 to support an open internet, to prevent internet providers from blocking or slowing website content. The open internet is widely and popularly supported, but opposed by some financial interests.
- Other bills that Rep. Joe Kennedy has been a early co-sponsor or major sponsor include:
- Allow graduate stipends or monies to be placed in individual retirement accounts (introduced every session)
- To limit discriminatory practices, such as against LGBTQ, claimed protected by religious freedoms
- Study of best practices in prevention of opioid and heroin addiction along with education and database (2015)
- Publicity to promote pro bono legal services with regard to domestic abuse
- Kennedy is currently member of a utility committee.
- Fortune: Kennedy has a fortune to inherit – reported online as circa 50 million. Forbes reports the estimated net worth of the Kennedy family is reported as 1.2 billion. The wealth has been maintained with an array of trusts and investments. One would expect this would be a blind trust. However, in a debate Kennedy was questioned as to how the 2 million in fossil fuels in his portfolio impacted his votes. His response was that his votes were not influenced by his portfolio.
- Top contributors to Kennedy include these relevant telecommunication companies:
- Google Inc. (25K) – Google is involved in wireless network development – see WSJ 24 May 2013 – and its services like Stadia (gaming) will benefit from 5G.
- Bain Capital (16K – this company has substantial technology investments)
- Citizens Energy Corporation – relative Joe Kennedy is an executive of this company which develops high-voltage lines, invests in the micro-grid, is involved in solar, Vineyard Winds, and on a positive note highlights charitable work to provide energy for the poor from its profits – the CEO, Augsburger, is also board member of Roan Resources, a gas and oil exploration group. Wireless is presently being used as part of the microgrid. Also, high-voltage lines give off electromagnetic fields. For these reasons there may be a financial disincentive on the part of CEC to fully examine health effects from wireless to electricity. There is no way to know whether this would influence Kennedy’s decisions.
- Joe Kennedy did not receive contributions from another high-profile relative, Robert F. Kennedy, who supports vaccine rights and who is opposed to wireless exposures. In a recent article, Robert F. Kennedy mentions his nephew Joe Kennedy, who is accused by Dr. Shiva of raising money for Joe Kennedy. There is no way of knowing the reason for the lack of donation directly from Robert Kennedy which could be:
- because Joe objects to Robert’s vaccine concerns,
- simply not showing up yet in the records,
- unwillingness to admit support for such hot topics,
- differences of opinion,
- Joe Kennedy simply choosing not to ask.
- Markey’s Technology Stance, Funding, & Influence:
- Markey holds a position on the telecommunications committee, and thus may have some greater influence on the subject.
- Markey is still proud of his authorship of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That bill has been critiqued not only because of 47 U.S.C. Section 704, which limits local zoning rights of cell towers and denies consideration of environmental impacts ([in (b)(iv)], but also for consolidation of media. An April 2020 article in the Commonwealth Journal states Markey had noted the consolidation problem recently – yet his site still comments the act.
- The Green New Deal is popular for advancing a symbolic commitment to alternative energy and decent jobs, but it promotes smart meters which are wireless and are a Trojan Horse. The meters require massive infrastructure which make additional energy demands. The Green New Deal fails to be critical of technologies like smart meters which contribute to surveillance, automation, and resource consumption.
- Markey responded positively to a letter on wireless concerns sent by Director K. Beatty, yet his stance is still unclear as not much has been done on the matter since then. Markey’s response sent on Sept. 18, 2019, says: “…we must balance this need [for tech] with important health considerations.”
- On the negative side, Markey joined colleagues in asking the FCC to allow use of public school E-rate funding for students to use wireless technology from home during the Covid19 pandemic. On the face of it the request appears reasonable, but this request shows that Markey does not fully appreciate or understand wireless health threats. Joe Kennedy was not a signatory, although Senator Elizabeth Warren’s name and others such as Senator Kamala Harris were included.
- In a recent June 2020 tech interview, Markey has a wait and see approach about 5G and discusses providing 4 billion extra to fund school broadband during Covid19 through the E-rate program. Not once did Markey discuss the problems of health impacts or monopoly. Nor did Markey address FCC requirements that E-rate funds be used only for wireless connections.
- Markey recently introduced a bill (S. 2748) that would reduce wireless power levels by restricting use of public safety frequencies to public safety uses – this restriction would limit public use and thus limit power levels.
- Markey has supported bills designed to reduce IT hacking and security threats – this is a reasonable position. He has critiqued industry for only informing shareholders and not consumers of driverless car risks.
- Markey’s sponsorships and statements show he is a champion of privacy, which is a component of liberty, and he has introduced bills to protect children’s privacy as well as open internet or community television (S. 3218), avenues of free speech – this has meant holding stances counter to industry. Kennedy also signed onto the community television bill as a cosponsor.
- The Markey Committee has received tons of cash. Granite Telecommunications leaders is listed as a top funder. Interestingly enough, Granite is focused on analog telephone line billing – which is not a wireless focus. Granite may be well positioned to deal with an economy that reverses wireless dependence. Blackstone Group, a private equity group, is also a top donor and one of its investments is in smart homes via Vivint – smart homes depend on wireless.