Comcast: Throwing Money At Congress To Approve Our Merger Is Ok Because Congress Represents The People!

from the public-relations-gobbledygook dept

Comcast is using a variety of sophisticated lobbying tricks to get the company’s proposed $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable approved, including using minority groups and an endless roster of think tankers to parrot merger support. They’re also taking a few cues from AT&T’s blocked T-Mobile deal and avoiding making any promises the company knows it can’t deliver (like claiming a merger that will likely kill jobs will somehow create jobs). But one thing Comcast is doing that’s decidedly unsophisticated is its practice of throwing money at absolutely everybody (in truly bi-partisan fashion) in the hope it’s really just as simple as buying merger support:

“…money from Comcast’s political action committee has flowed to all but three members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Checks have landed in the campaign coffers of Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who oversee the chamber’s antitrust panel. Meanwhile, the cable giant has donated in some way to 32 of the 39 members of the House Judiciary Committee, which is planning a hearing of its own.”

Another recent report noted that House members of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology received $853,525 from Comcast between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2012. Members of the 109th, 110th, 111th and 112th Congresses also received $6,678,446 from Comcast between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2012. Amusingly, Comcast tries strangely to downplay throwing cash at lawmakers by somehow insisting that because those same lawmakers are supposed to also represent Comcast employees (who’ll likely see layoffs) and Comcast customers (who’ll certainly see higher prices and anti-competitive behavior), that somehow this is all ok:

Comcast stresses its donations are a function of its business. “Comcast NBCUniversal operates in 39 states and has 130,000 employees across the country,” said spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice. “It is important for our customers, our employees and our shareholders that we participate in the political process. The majority of our PAC contributions are to the senators and members who represent our employees and customers.

So if I follow Sena’s logic to its dizzying conclusion: dumping money into the laps of lawmakers so they’ll approve a merger that benefits only Comcast is justified because if those lawmakers weren’t busy having Comcast cash dumped in their laps — they might actually represent the people that voted for them? I’ve seen a lot of spin, and that one is pretty fantastic. We’re not lobbying solely for the company’s financial gain, you little people benefit too because lawmakers are technically supposed to be representing you. That is, if we weren’t paying them to do otherwise. Isn’t engaging in the political process fun!? Don’t you feel engaged? Why aren’t you laughing?

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Companies: comcast, time warner cable

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Comments on “Comcast: Throwing Money At Congress To Approve Our Merger Is Ok Because Congress Represents The People!”

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vastrightwing (profile) says:

Comcast cares

I’m glad to know Comcast cares about us little people.
Comcast, I have an idea, rather than pouring tons of money to political action committees and buying politicians, spend the money making your service better. I know this is a radical departure from your regular model, but it works. People, your customers, respond favorably when they get value for their hard earned money. I know business school didn’t teach you this, but I’ve learned this by working for actual customers: they like getting value for their money.

Consumers, if Comcast isn’t giving you value, there is a way to extract value from your overpriced Internet: buy inexpensive mesh access points like open mesh. Have a few neighbors subscribe to high speed broadband and allow your neighbors to use your excess bandwidth. You’re not using the bandwidth you’re paying for anyway. The mesh network will manage the network for you and everyone benefits! That way, Comcast can keep upselling faster speeds and the excess bandwidth can be managed across the neighborhood. I’m doing it. It’s cheap and works great!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

I'm a customer

“It is important for our customers, our employees and our shareholders that we participate in the political process.”

That’s funny, I’m a Comcast customer and it’s important to me that Comcast stay the hell away from the political process.

This statement actively pisses me off. Comcast in no way represents my interests, needs, or desires. For them to claim they do is an insult.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm a customer

Of course they represent your interests.

You pay them money to do so. Yes it is true that you most likely do not have a choice… its either comcast or nothing but you give them money, and with that money you are powering their efforts. This representation may not be to your liking but it is so none the less.

As good or bad as it is, you are associated. If you want to change something you will most likely have to fight a huge uphill battle.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm a customer

I agree that I’m funding their misbehavior. In our society, giving money to any business is an effective vote for them to continue doing whatever they are doing. I’ve been making that argument for decades. If I had any realistic choice, Comcast wouldn’t get a dime from me and, yes, I’m more than a little butthurt that I have to do business with them.

However, that doesn’t mean that they represent my interests. It means that I’m paying them to represent their own interests.

At the very least, they don’t have to lie and say that they’re in some way representing me. They already have my money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm a customer

Congress’ approval rating and Comcast’s approval are about the same. They should get along well. Not that I agree with it. I find Comcast’s practice unethical. They promised me one thing and then lied about how long it would last. If they ever promise you anything, make sure to have it written and signed by them. Otherwise expect them to not fulfill their end.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Does anyone still think

Congress isn’t bought and paid for?

Not completely paid for yet, apparently, as Comcast is still throwing money at them.

Maybe it’s more like a long-term lease, with option to buy at the end of each congressperson’s term. Given the revolving-door between Congress and industry, that sounds quite plausible, in fact.

Alien Rebel (profile) says:


Unfortunately, expecting anyone to make sense these days is just plain unrealistic. All it takes now is having well-dressed “serious” people move their mouths and spew the right buzzwords; making logical sense is optional. Like the Gary Larson cartoon of an old woman talking to her dog, all they need to say is “bla-bla-blah, business, bla-bla, . . good for consumers, . . “bla-bla-blah, . . democratic process, bla-bla blah, . . “

And of course, handing out cash to all the right people makes the deal happen while the public sits waiting patiently for the doggie treat they think is coming. Job done. We live in an idiotocracy.

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Nickles Again

My favorite denizen of the D.C. swamp, former Senator Don Nickles, got his pic and honorable mention in this article on COMCAST’s lobbying team. Eric Lipton. COMCAST?s Web of Lobbying and Philanthropy. NY Times, Feb. 20, 2014

Caption of photo accompanying the article:

Comcast?s team includes six former government officials. From left, former Senator Don Nickles, former Representative Robert Walker, former Senator Blanche Lincoln, former Representative Ron Klink, David Cohen of Comcast and former F.C.C. member Meredith Attwell Baker.

Anonymous Coward says:

There's a word for that...

Comcast stresses its donations are a function of its business. “Comcast NBCUniversal operates in 39 states and has 130,000 employees across the country,” said spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice. “It is important for our customers, our employees and our shareholders that we participate in the political process. The majority of our PAC contributions are to the senators and members who represent our employees and customers.”

Sounds like bribery to me.

David says:

Re: Re:

What do they care about approval ratings? As long as they have the approval of the gaolmasters and tax men, they don’t need the approval of the rabble that has no choice to “vote” for anybody but politicians. Heck, there is even a “popular vote” put up after elections for amusement that only bears a loose correlation with the choice of dungeon masters for the current bleeding period.

MrWilson says:

I thought of another political system fantasy that will never come true, but could be interesting to see implemented:

Make it illegal for a politician to know where their campaign contributions come from. Make it illegal for anyone to tell or even imply or hint to a politician that they provided them with funding.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Let’s think about that a bit further.

Under this idea, no one is allowed to pay for political advertising – not a candidate, not a corporation, not a private citizen, no one.

What does that leave?

Obviously, it leaves people talking about issues among themselves, such as we’re doing here.

It also leaves news coverage of issues and of candidacies – also arguably such as Techdirt is doing here.

Thus, an established news outlet (say, radio or TV, just to keep things simple for the moment) would be able to air political advertising of their own viewpoints, without running afoul of this law; they wouldn’t be getting paid to air the ads, they would be doing it on their own initiative.

This is problematic enough on its own, because it means the interests and ideologies of the organizations sufficiently established to already have a megaphone of their own would get disproportionate air time, and it would be disproportionately difficult for a disagreeing perspective to make itself heard.

Beyond that, if they can air ads supporting their own viewpoints on their own initiative as long as it isn’t for payment, presumably they could also air ads that someone else asks them to, as long as it isn’t for payment.

If they can do that, then can they air ads that someone else asks them to, as a “favor” – with no money changing hands?

How do you track what counts as “paid” here? Does it have to be actual money (or direct gifts, et cetera), or do promises of favors count? How long do you keep watching to see whether there’s a payback in a form you do track later on, that might be tied to an under-the-table deal to air the ads?

There are probably other ramifications to consider as well, but those should do to start out with. I like the idea at a glance (aside from the problems with restricting freedom of speech, which might be unavoidable for anything that actually does solve the “money in politics” problem), but I’m not at all sure it wouldn’t end up causing at least as many problems as it solves.

bobby b says:

This is what we voted for

“So if I follow Sena’s logic to its dizzying conclusion: dumping money into the laps of lawmakers so they’ll approve a merger that benefits only Comcast is justified . . . “

Sure it’s justified. This is our system of electioneering at its most basic.

Politicians need to pay for television and radio and internet advertising if they want any chance of being elected. No other means will get your message out to the mass of voters who are spread too thin for you to reach them individually.

So I send my five bucks to my favorite candidate (or my five hundred thousand bucks if I’m wealthy), and they use it to get their message (“vote for me because . . .”) out to the voters. I send my five bucks to candidates whom I believe will do a good job in the office. “Good job” usually means that they will effectively pursue goals that I share with them.

To the extent that the system corrupts our government, it can only do so because we the voters choose to vote based primarily on stupid, banal, irrelevant, lazy, and self-serving reasons.

We always decry how the biggest campaign chest seems to automatically buy an election, but we need to ask why this is so. The answer is not flattering to us as a society: no matter the merits or faults of the candidates, we seem to vote based on which candidate shoved more commercials down our throats.

So, if we the voters are going to tell candidates that our votes will always follow the money, we certainly can’t criticize them for trying to raise as much money as possible.

If we can ever reach a point where the bulk of our population bothers to learn what the issues are, to figure out why those issues are important, and to then discern which candidate truly represents our values and wishes, the importance of giving dollars to candidates will diminish.

But as long as we vote based on the number of times we see the blow-dried candidate on television walking his dog and mentioning to the pack of attentive and well-groomed people following along with him on camera that we need to do things “for the children”, then we’re going to leave the governance of our country in the hands of those people rich enough to buy lots of ads for their candidates.

We can’t expect anything different as long as we put less time into our own civic education than we put into trimming our dog’s toenails. We get the governance that we deserve, good and hard.

Lana Lorenzen (profile) says:

Comment to Congress and Comcast

Frankly, I wish that all of America over the age of 21 would “unionize.” There’s only one way to beat companies like Comcast and that’s to discontinue our service. How better spent that money would be spent on better service; the same is true of the money that will be spent on acquiring Time Warner. I’m moving across the street in a few months and telling Comcast to take a hike. I can’t take one more idiot commercial (originally, cable was ad-free), one more idiot “reality” show, or one more “infocommercial” I’m going back to three stations and the library.

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