Rep. Boucher Loses Election
November 2, 2010. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) lost his bid for re-election to the House. He is currently the Chairman of the House Commerce Committee's (HCC) Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.
He is one of the Congresses leading authorities on communications and internet technologies, laws and policies.
He was first elected to the Virginia 9th District in 1982. He is one of the most senior members of both the HCC and the House Judiciary Committee (HJC).
His district has always possessed demographic characteristics that would suggest vulnerability to a Republican challenger. However, until the November 2 election he held the seat through skillful and diligent representation of his constituents.
Rep. Boucher (at right) likely lost because he was compelled by the House Democratic leadership to vote for high profile initiatives that were unpopular in his District, such as the bills sometimes referred to as cap and trade, Obamacare, and stimulus.
At the same time, the leadership's and the Obama administration's incessant focus these issues left Rep. Boucher little opportunity to connect with his constituents on other issues where he shared their views and values.
In an earlier era, back in the 1990s, there was a group of Representatives and Senators who worked to enact laws, and promote government policies, that would advance the development and use of the internet and information technologies and the economic and social benefits that would flow therefrom. Efforts by these legislators, which were often directed at preventing harmful government regulation, were often bipartisan, bicameral, and productive. Rep. Boucher was one of the most knowledgeable and active members of this group.
For example, in the late 1990s, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) jointly organized opposition to Clinton administration encryption policies that threatened the tech sector. Similarly, former Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA) and former Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR) jointly sponsored legislation to temporarily ban discriminatory state and local taxes on certain internet services.
That era is gone. Many of these technophiles have died, lost elections, or not sought re-election (such as Conrad Burns, Tom Campbell, Chris Cox, Bart Gordon, Robert Matsui, and Rick White). Others, such as Rep. Goodlatte and former Rep. and now Sen. Wyden remain in the Congress, but devote little attention to these issues. Also, Sen. Wyden long ago gave up his seat on the Senate Commerce Committee (SCC) for a seat on the Senate Finance Committee (SFC). Some other former tech proponents now focus on promoting the interests of one company, or one narrow sector, in intramural tech policy contests.
Rep. Boucher has sponsored many major bills in recent Congresses. However, the key bills have not become law. For example, he has worked to create a data privacy regulatory regime, reform the universal service tax and subsidy programs, and create an incentive spectrum auction process.
The 112th Congress may enact a data privacy bill. His partner in that effort, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), won re-election with 71% of the vote. The next Congress may also provide for incentive auctions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Rep. Stearns is also Rep. Boucher's cosponsor of that bill.
There has long been broad agreement in the Congress, in industry, and at the FCC that the universal service system is in need of reform. However, little progress has been made towards implementing reform. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), who has co-sponsored universal service reform bills with Rep. Boucher, won re-election with 61% of the vote.
Rep. Boucher has also been one of the House's leading opponents of content industry efforts
to increase copyright protection and enforcement. A decade ago he successfully lead efforts
to block legislation to create new proprietary interests in collections of data. In more recent
Congresses, Rep. Boucher worked unsuccessfully to create a fair use exemption to the
anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).