AT&T's Top Anti-Net Neutrality Lobbyist In California Doesn't Register As A Lobbyist

from the funny-how-that-works dept

We’ve noted for years how U.S. lobbying laws and restrictions are essentially hot garbage, and are routinely laughed at by some of the country’s largest corporations. The legal DC definition of a lobbyist was beefed up slightly back in 2007, when the Lobbyist Disclosure Act was notably amended by the Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. Those changes required that if an employee spends more than 20% of their time lobbying, they have to register with the government as a lobbyist, detail their travel with lawmakers, and more fully outline their contributions to politicians and their myriad foundations.

But many lobbyists responded to those changes by just changing their title or calling their lobbying… something else. We’ve examined, for example, how Comcast’s top lobbyist David Cohen shifted his title to “Chief Diversity Officer” in order to skirt around that 20% restriction. Cohen often can frequently be seen holding press junkets heralding Comcast’s altruism because it offered some discounted broadband connections to the poor to get its NBC Universal merger approved. But the lion’s share of Cohen’s time is spent lobbying local lawmakers during these junkets.

Comcast, it’s worth noting, gets really mad when you point this out.

State lobbying restrictions, as you might imagine, aren’t much better. Another lobbying juggernaut in the telecom space, AT&T, has also found itself under fire for lobbyists who pretend not to be lobbyists. The company’s top lobbyist in California, Vice President of Legislative Affairs Bill Devine, has never registered as a lobbyist under California law. Devine has spent a lot of time lately lobbying to kill efforts in California to pass net neutrality law (you know, for freedom!), without adhering to lobbying requirements:

“By not registering as a lobbyist, Devine can take advantage of political influence techniques that registered lobbyists are banned from under California laws. The Political Reform Act of 1974 requires registered lobbyists to disclose their lobbying activity expenses to the state. It also bans them from giving gifts worth more than $10 to state, legislative and agency officials. Under Proposition 34, enacted in 2000, registered lobbyists are also banned from making campaign contributions.”

Devine’s lobbying lambada was noticed courtesy of an anonymous complaint filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC):

“William H. Devine, an AT&T Vice President, unlawfully fails to register as a lobbyist, despite spending the majority of his time in the Capitol Building talking to lawmakers and staff in order to influence legislation. It is an open secret in the Capitol building that Mr. Devine is an undeclared AT&T lobbyist.”

“Mr. Devine hides his lobbyist status by setting up meetings under other AT&T employee and lobbyist names,? the complaint alleges. ?In particular, Mr. Devine has recently been lobbying legislators on SB 822 and SB 460. On information and belief, Mr. Devine attended numerous meetings with other AT&T lobbyists, employees and grant beneficiaries, including, but not limited to, employees of CalInnovates (paid by AT&T to work against SB 822/SB 460) and a researcher paid by CalInnovate, David Sosa. He may also have accompanied Mark Kleeman, a fellow at University of California ? San Diego.”

This isn’t really complicated. Devine has been paid $117,000 so far this biennial legislative session by AT&T for lobbying-related activities, most notably related to AT&T’s lobbying against the state’s two net neutrality laws, SB 822 and SB 460. He coordinates routinely with other AT&T lobbyists, and works hand in hand with the various policy groups, think tankers and consultants AT&T uses as proxies for its messaging, including that outfit that was just busted trying to scare grandmothers away from net neutrality via misleading robocalls.

The FPPC has given Devine 14 days to respond to the complaint. But if history is any indication, it’s likely no punishment will materialize. Because despite our collective, bipartisan chirping about how grotesque American lobbying and corruption is, these sort of things tend to float in one ear and out the other of the collective American consciousness. It’s also kind of hard to improve state and national lobbying rules, when you’ve got an ocean of lobbyists consultants, think tankers, chief diversity officers, liaisons, and others lobbying courageously striving to keep that from happening.

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Companies: at&t

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Comments on “AT&T's Top Anti-Net Neutrality Lobbyist In California Doesn't Register As A Lobbyist”

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Ahmed N. "Dane" Geruss says:

Is it ONLY ATT or just your totally selective attack again?

I’m betting on the latter.

Just to try and ace you out of another bit of UTTER TRIVIA on which to hang an ATTack:

"AT&T Turns Neighborhood Into Disaster Zone While Installing New Fiber Optic Tech…"

Weenies who’ve never seen a little dirt before complaining that utility installation tore up their lawn. The horror! From someplace called "Sacromento".

Anonymous Coward says:

Regulatory Capture

If the company can pay off the people needed to avoid being prosecuted, this can’t be anything but Regulatory Capture. I’m sure someone at the IRS would be able to ruin the company and the people directly for avoiding taxes and fees associated with their illegal activities. Payoffs that are not declared are illegal.

ECA (profile) says:

What would happen..

If all these corps WORKED by the word of law??
The intended meanings of what is the law..

How would all this work if Agencies created by the corps and politics, HAD TO TELL US, who Started/created them and FOR WHAT PURPOSE??

How would it be, if the 1 corp that makes 6 Different Name brands of HOME APPLIANCES, could/would use ONLY their own name on the products??

HOW would it be, if we RETIRED all those in the Gov. that were over 65??(over 30 would be leaving in each section)

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