June 19, 2012

GOP Sen. Rand Paul Warns That For-Profit Drone Lobby Is Seducing Congress

GOP Sen. Rand Paul Warns That For-Profit Drone Lobby Is Seducing Congress
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Drones aren’t just for battlefields in the Middle East or South Asia anymore. In February, Congress authorized the use of thousands of surveillance drones domestically in the United States. At a conference of drone manufacturers that Republic Report attended in Washington, D.C., lobbyists praised Members of Congress for giving them exactly the sort of authorization language they sought.

One Member of Congress who is trying to limit the government’s ability to use surveillance drones on Americans is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Along with Rep. Austin Scott (R) of Georgia, Paul introduced legislation recently that would disallow the use of drones without a warrant except in the most extreme circumstances.

In an interview recorded last week with The Jerry Doyle Show, Paul explained that right before he went on national television to talk about his legislation, he received a phone call from lobbyists for drone manufacturers. He explained that Congress should be wary of this lobby because it is making money from the product it is telling lawmakers to vote in favor of:

PAUL: Interesting thing is, I went on CNN to announce this [drone legislation] the other day even before I went on CNN and I think even before I went on CNN — we didn’t think we’d announced it anywhere — we got a call before we went on to CNN from a lobbyist for the people who sell drones wanting to have a talk with us, somehow the word got out pretty quickly that we were going to be saying something about limiting what drones could do. People do make money selling stuff like this, you have to be aware that the advice they’re giving to congressmen is not particularly dispassionate that it has something to do making money selling this drone technology. And so we do have to be worried about it.

Listen to it:

My colleague Lee Fang explained earlier this year how the drone lobby, represented by the group the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems, doubled its lobbying expenditures last year right as it was trying to vastly expand its rights to fly drones over American soil.

Unsurprisingly, drone opponent Paul has received no campaign contributions from the political action committees of military contractors and the for-profit drone lobby.