According to the Center for Responsible Politics, the Bells – Qwest, BellSouth, SBC Communications and Verizon – have contributed about $19.4 million to congressional campaigns since 1999.

Slightly less huge companies such as AT&T, Sprint and Worldcom have spent about $12.6 million over the same period.

Congress today gave away the store to the bigger contributors. The House passed sweeping legislation today to let the four Bell telephone giants sell Internet access nationwide and to relieve them of state and federal regulation. The bill would remove requirements in the 1996 Telecommunications Act that the regional Bell companies first open their networks to competitors before being allowed to offer high-speed Internet service nationwide.

As CNN put it: “Opponents in Congress, as well as state regulators and consumer groups, say the bill would leave the states powerless to protect consumers. ‘Where I’m from, every time Congress dismantles a regulatory scheme and hands it over to the monopolies my constituents take it on the chin,’ said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.”

It’s still possible that the bill will be derailed in the Senate, where at least a few powerful senators are opposed to it.