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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Filed Under: congress, lobbying, merger
Companies: comcast, time warner cable


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  1. icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 15 Mar 2014 @ 1:53pm

    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.

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