Comcast Deeply Offended By Claims It Pays People To Support Its Merger

from the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain dept

Comcast has consistently crowed about the volume of individuals and organizations that support the company's $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable. Of course the company has just as consistently failed to mention how much of this "support" is from people paid to regurgitate pretty much any Comcast dreck-filled missive that comes stumbling down the road. Want funding for a new events center or a "closing the digital divide" photo op? Just leave independent thought at the door and send lawmakers a pre-written form letter with your name or organization's logo on it.

It doesn't take much sleuthing to uncover the money trail, because Comcast (and the politicians and groups beholden to it) usually (with some think tank exceptions) don't bother hiding it. They just outright deny that the money impacts policy positions whatsoever. For example, take reports this week that clearly highlight how Comcast can effectively buy a media sound wall of merger support, then pretend there's nothing untoward about an army of "consultants," minority groups, and fauxcademics all paid to effectively be glorified parrots:
"Increased Concentration Does Not Equal Anticompetitive Effect,” Mr. Manne wrote last August, summarizing his submission. He separately wrote pieces in Wired magazine, extolling the virtues of the deal, and through a separate advocacy organization he helps run, called TechFreedom, wrote a blog post that appeared the same day that the deal was announced early last year. Each time, he praised the transaction. But nowhere in these statements does Mr. Manne directly disclose that Comcast is among a small group of donors that finances his nonprofit group, a fact that Mr. Manne confirmed in response to a question late last week. "We are no value to our donors or ourselves unless we maintain our independence and academic rigor,” he said, before adding that “maybe there is some subconscious thing there."
Yes, surely Comcast's cash comes associated not with an expectation that you'll give automated and artificial justification to what's frequently very anti-consumer and anti-competitive policies, but that you'll exercise your "independence and academic rigor" and tell Comcast to piss off when you're approached to help "correct perceptions" about the latest Comcast PR campaign. You see there's nothing untoward going on here -- because we say there's nothing untoward going on here. We're all just healthy American patriots busy expressing our First Amendment rights, after all.

That logic was mirrored by Comcast's top lobbyist David Cohen -- who calls himself the company's "Chief Diversity Officer" to help skirt lobbying rules (I bring that up every time I write about Cohen because to me it just never gets old). Cohen says he's "offended" by the very idea that Comcast has to pay for its policy support:
"He did not dispute that many of the voices supporting the deal received donations from Comcast. But he said he was offended by the suggestion that their endorsements had been made in return for the financial help. "We have never provided financial support to an organization in exchange for support in a transaction,” he said. “Our support is based on the quality of the work they do in the community."
Now I'm sure that somewhere there exists a person that actually believes that, but I'd recommend not putting them in charge of your finances (or even lawn care). In Mr. Cohen's head, this is just another conspiracy contributing to the unfair overall "atmospherics" of anti-Comcast sentiment:
"The atmospherics around our customer service clearly stir some antipathy among some consumers," Mr. Cohen said. "And it does provide a basis for opponents of the transaction to gin up three-sentence, nonsubstantive communications to the F.C.C. saying that they don’t like Comcast or they don’t like Time Warner Cable."
That's a company with arguably the worst customer satisfaction ratings in any industry -- one that manufactures support for bad policies out of thin air -- trying to claim its horrible reputation is somehow manufactured. It's still not clear if regulators plan to deny the merger (or approve it with something vaguely-resembling meaningful conditions), but whatever happens it will spell the end of some fantastic entertainment that easily tops anything in Comcast's channel lineup.

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  • icon
    Rich Fiscus (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 6:19am

    It's the Casablanca defense.

    I'm shocked! Shocked to find out there's lobbying coming out of our sock puppet's mouth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 7 Apr 2015 @ 6:20am

    "David Cohen"

    Sometimes there are people like David Cohen who really embarrass and annoy me since they manage fitting all stereotypes regarding the name and associated appearance, behavior and morals to a degree where I cannot help feeling like a prejudiced bigot for noticing what feels like an elephant in the room.

    But in the end, nobody but David Cohen is responsible for what David Cohen does, and that's actually quite enough to justify my annoyance at him and those behaving similarly, putting corporate greed and their personal profit from it before anything else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 6:43am

    Coincidentally

    Access to Techdirt.com from my Comcast connection was briefly interrupted at the same time this article was released. Maybe just a network bounce. Maybe they were testing their content filtering and injection tools.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 6:56am

    Now I'm sure that somewhere there exists a person that actually believes that, but I'd recommend not putting them in charge of your finances (or even lawn care).

    I most certainly would put them in charge of lawn care. Do you know how much high-quality composted manure costs?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:19am

      Re:

      Except it isn't "high-quality" manure. If it were, people would be buying it instead of them having to pay people to take it from them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 7:23am

    Mois?! Mais, non!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 7:43am

    I'd lay off

    The atmospherics around our customer service clearly stir some antipathy among some consumers


    Mr. Cohen, if the only problem with Comcast was terrible customer support, I'd be thrilled and would stop ragging on Comcast so much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:16am

      Re: I'd lay off

      Have you seen their latest commercials touting their customer service features built into their cable boxes? Note the irony. Yes you too can get better customer service from a dumb box than one of our reps!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 4:01pm

      Re: I'd lay off

      You just need to expand the definition of 'customer service' a bit. If you take it to include 'properly serving your customers, and providing good service at good prices with good support', then his statement would seem to be fine. They do have abysmal 'customer service' in that case, in every way, hence the 'antipathy' they face.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 7:50am

    When Comcast wqddles around like a duck, wearing their duck outfit and quaking like a duck and hanging out around other ducks, people ate going to call them a damn duck. Don't act so shocked, Comcast.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Berenerd (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:07am

      Re:

      No self respecting duck would be caught hanging around comcast unless comcast paid someone to put up a fence around the ducks, clip their wings and then sit in the middle of the group. Though even then there might be trouble...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:20am

    David Cohen is a liar

    Of course he is: he's well-paid to lie, lie, lie about anything and everything that his masters at Comcast command, starting with his job title.

    The sad part is that there are people naive and stupid enough to believe this obedient little toady.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:13am

      Re: David Cohen is a liar

      some people prefer to let others do their thinking for them.

      Why worry about what is right and wrong when you can just do and believe what your told.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:59am

      Re: David Cohen is a liar

      The sad part is that there are people naive and stupid enough to believe this obedient little toady.

      Well, there are people who are paid to pretend to believe him. It's not clear to me there's anyone who actually believes him.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:22am

    strange how much the truth hurts, isn't it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:50am

    Mr Manne is going to say what ever Comcast wants him to say, because that's why Comcast gives him money. Here is a little history to back up this assertion

    From the book Captive Audience by Susan Crawford (page 271):

    One of Comcast's nonprofit grantees, a small media nonprofit organization in Seattle called Reel Grrls, sent out a tweet expressing shock (concerning Meredith Attwell leaving the FCC to take a high paying position at Comcast). A Comcast manager wrote to Reel Grrls: "Given the fact that Comcast has been a major supporter of Reel Grrls for several years now, I am frankly shocked that your organization is slamming us on Twitter. I cannot in good conscience continue to provide you with funding"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:20am

    Paying for policy support

    Cohen says he's "offended" by the very idea that Comcast has to pay for its policy support
    I too am offended that Comcast has chosen to pay for policy support instead of earning it through offering a quality product with good support at a reasonable price.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      streetlight (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:28am

      Re: Paying for policy support

      The best customer service I've found for a malfunctioning Comcast DVR is to unplug it, wait a short time and plug it back in. Of course, one loses the guide information for awhile until it is repopulated. This tells you something about the quality of telephone customer service.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 7 Apr 2015 @ 10:51am

    They actually told my stepdaughter that it was consumers fault for their high prices because everyone demanded ala carte service and now they are stuck charging high prices.

    This is a company that believes its own bullshit. And they blame the customer in the same manner of a serial rapist blaming the victim.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 11:31am

      Re:

      They actually told my stepdaughter that it was consumers fault for their high prices because everyone demanded ala carte service and now they are stuck charging high prices.

      But without actually offering the a la carte service. Nice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 10:57am

    It doesn't matter...

    Whether or not they're paying for endorsement/support or not, it's the perception that matters...

    And what it looks like is pure greed and bribery.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 11:37am

    The tactics Comcast employes only work, if people aren't paying attention. The minute people start paying attention to the man behind the curtain, the harder it is for elected officials to pass laws that transfer wealth from the pockets of their electorate to the pocket of the entity that funds them.

    Rockefeller, to hide from the public what he was doing, when he was buying up all the refineries in the 1870's, had people agree to not disclose that he and standard oil were involved in any way (not even to their wives). The meetings to finalize the deals were usually held in secret, and for any future communications that weren't face to face, Rockefeller required them use a code. So instead of using the word "John D. Rockefeller" they would use the word "Chowder" and the company "Standard Oil" was to be refereed too as "Club"

    These people only are able to get away with this shit, when they can keep it secret. It was true 140 years ago, and it's true today.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 8 Apr 2015 @ 4:41pm

    Comcast: neither com nor cast (virtually no Internet access and frequent interruptions to its cable service).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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