Emails Show Cozy Relationship Between Comcast Execs And DOJ Antitrust Folks; Party Invitation Blocked By 'Rules Folks'
from the darn-rules-folks dept
A new FOIA discovery via Todd Feathers at MuckRock has turned up some emails showing a rather cozy relationship between top Comcast execs and Justice Department antitrust officials. In fact, just days before Comcast announced its intent to acquire Time Warner Cable, Comcast Senior VP of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, Kathryn Zachem, had invited Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Renata Hesse, to "attend a celebration of the opening ceremony" of the Sochi Olympics, care of Comcast NBC Universal. Hesse sent an email saying that she really wanted to attend but "the rules folks over here tell me I can't do this." Though, she still says that they need to get dinner sometime soon. When Zachem responds that she had hoped it would still be okay because "we have nothing formally before you all," Hesse notes "our ethics rules are very restrictive."
Two weeks later, Zachem was again emailing Hesse to give her "a heads up on an announcement we are making in the early AM." It was, of course, the proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. A couple days later, there's another email exchange between Zachem and Hesse, in which Hesse introduces Zachem to David Gelfand at the Justice Department who "will be working on this for the front office with me." She notes "If you don't know him, you will and I know you will like him. He's just terrific." Zachem replies: "Hello David - if Renata says I will like you then I already do!" Gelfand jokingly replies:
In the interest of full disclosure, Renata sent her nice email while still under the influence of my having just bought her a cup of coffee. But hopefully I can live up to the advance billing!
Just the kind of chummy, friendly relationship you want to see from the people tasked with determining whether or not your multi-billion merger should be allowed to go through. And, yes, I recognize that regulators and top execs in charge of regulatory affairs are going to have personal connections and relationships with each other. That happens. But given the situation and the timing, this certainly raises the usual questions of just how objective the DOJ's review of the merger will be.