MA Senate Race: Markey v. Kennedy

Massachusetts Senate Race: Senator Ed Markey vs. Representative Joe Kennedy

By Kirstin Beatty, 2020 April 17

 

Please note, we initially made one 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: We cannot tell who would be the greatest champion on this issue, but a reason for ousting Markey seems absent.

Markey appears to be the best choice on this issue, being a senior senator on the telecommunications committee and having a history of acting independently of industry interests on telecommunications and other issues.

In summary, while difficult to assess, Markey’s history, interests, and  telecommunications committee position suggest that Markey could and would be willing to counter the industry if he believed doing so was right. Because Markey is a member of the telecommunications committee, he is going to receive donations from the industry. Yet, Markey has a history of making decisions contrary to IT interests in the areas of privacy and security. He appears to be more interested in broad telecommunications regulation and has put forward some rather specific, detailed bills for this purpose. Because of Markey’s position, knowledge, and stances as well as interest in telecommunications, he has the potential to be a champion on this topic if he can be more thoroughly educated and persuaded.

While Kennedy has a position on an energy committee, there simply isn’t as much evidence of consistent attention to energy or telecommunications. There is little record. On other topics, he has put forward some legislation that indicates he is not an industry stooge. He has also received substantial funding from IT interests and he has a utility connection. Because of his connection to uncle Robert Kennedy of the Children’s Health Defense Fund (CHDF), he may be willing to fight against telecommunications infrastructure. The CHDF is engaged in a lawsuit against the FCC for failing to update exposures based on current concerning research.

A clear reason for running against Markey appears absent.

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 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
        • 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.
        • 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.
      • Kennedy is currently member of a utility committee.
      • 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. However, 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:
        • 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’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.
      • 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 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.
      • 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.