Boys And Girls Club Backtracks After Folks Ask Why It's Helping A Cable Monopoly Lobby The FCC

from the fake-plastic-enthusiasm dept

Last month we noted how the Boys and Girls Club was one of several organizations cable giant Charter (Spectrum) was using to lobby the FCC in a bid to kill off merger conditions affixed to its 2015 merger with Time Warner Cable. Many of those conditions actively protect consumers from monopoly price gouging (a 7 year temporary moratorium on arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps, for example). Other conditions worked to expand broadband into less affluent areas. Despite the conditions actually helping, you know, boys and girls... the club's letter opposed them.

In a letter to the FCC, the Boys and Girls Club insisted that a recent $5,000 donation by Charter to the organization helped it weather the COVID-19 storm, and that "lifting these conditions will level the playing field for Charter while having zero impact on the online video marketplace." But after activist and reporter Phil Dampier pointed out that wasn't true (garnering local press attention), both the Boys and Girls Club and Charter appear to have quickly pivoted to damage control mode.

In a statement to a Rochester, New York NBC affiliate, the Club acknowledges that after getting a big donation they signed off on a letter to the FCC that was written by Charter -- without reading it:

"The Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club received a request and prepared letter from Charter Communications affirming their charitable gift of $5,000 to support our summer programming. After quick review of the letter we submitted it. Unfortunately, upon closer review we see that the last paragraph of the letter states that we support 'Charter’s petition to sunset merger conditions.' It was never our intention to officially support anything. The Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club does not take a stance either way. We thank Charter Communications for their support of the youth development services we provide to Niagara Falls children."

Whoops-a-daisy! I not only accidentally lobbied the FCC on behalf of a local cable monopoly, I supported policies that actively harm the entire stated mission of our organization! Charter, for its part, issued a statement that fails to acknowledge much of anything, then tries to brush aside the gross quid pro quo as a "misunderstanding":

"Charter has supported the life-changing work of the Boys & Girls Clubs across the state for many years and we regret this misunderstanding. As an inherently local business with more than 10,000 employees in the state, we strengthen the communities we serve through employee volunteerism, in-kind support and technology, and philanthropic giving. We work in partnership with hundreds of local leaders and organizations, such as the Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club and the 1,400 young people whose lives they enhance each year, and will continue to do so."

That's a non-answer and a dodge.

A wide variety of groups take telecom cash to repeat whatever they're told, whether it's rural school associations, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, civil rights advocacy organizations, or even balloonist clubs. Sometimes entirely fake groups are created. Sometimes existing groups are "co-opted" to varying degrees to support bad policy. It was a common tactic in the net neutrality repeal. Hell, it was a major AT&T tactic in its bid to block the 1984 break up of AT&T.

For lobbyists the overall goal is simple: to create the illusion of broad support for bad ideas the actual public -- including these target groups' actual constituents -- otherwise oppose. One time out of twenty the press notices (reporting on unsexy but important merger filing minutiae doesn't generate many ad impressions), and everybody involved pretends it was just some accidental oversight. Because it's legal, nobody does anything. Rinse, wash, repeat.

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Filed Under: astroturf, boys and girls clubs, donations, fcc, lobbying
Companies: boys and girls club, charter, charter spectrum


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  • icon
    WarioBarker (profile), 25 Aug 2020 @ 7:29am

    So...instead of "Yes, we supported Charter's desire to price gouge its customers.", it's "I failed to read the part of the Charter-made letter immediately above where my signature went and as a result accidentally supported Charter's desire to price gouge its customers."

    That's already a terrible excuse, but looking at the letter again, part of the signature goes right through part of the text that supports Charter's desire to price gouge its customers. So yeah, I smell bullcrappery.

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

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 25 Aug 2020 @ 7:58am

    Sanctions?

    This just proves that Charter is sleazy AF. Shouldn't there be some sort of punishment for this blatant bulls***?

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Aug 2020 @ 8:20am

    That's uh, not helping

    While it's nice that they are backtracking after the public scrutiny the fact that they just admitted that so long as you slip them a few grand they will sign whatever you put in front of them unread isn't exactly making them look any better, not to mention raises the question of how genuine their positions on other topics in the past have been.

    If they are that quick to sell themselves to the highest bidder I can't help but suspect that it's not the first time they've done so, though I imagine it's probably the first time it's blown up in their face so publicly, something I imagine their genuine supporters are considering when it comes to future support.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Aug 2020 @ 8:44am

      Re: That's uh, not helping

      I am not so sure genuine supporters is the question. I think the question is what surreptitious concepts are being imposed (indoctrination) upon the boys and girls who attend their facilities? To be so blatantly stupid in what was surely to become a very public matter puts some question to the not so public (what do the kids know, can they recognize indoctrination?) but still stupid activities and lessons being taught. I have no evidence of such (I got my life saving certification at a boys club (the forerunners of the boys and girls clubs) and I don't think I got such indoctrinated, or it didn't take) but these days one has to wonder.

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

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 25 Aug 2020 @ 8:38am

    So what's the punishment for the telco?
    Embarrassment?
    Thats it?

    Not even a little pillorying of the person who signed the check?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2020 @ 9:51am

    So you submitted a letter to the FCC in relation to a specific filing to not take a stance either way?

    ...yeah, i got nothing...

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

  • icon
    Boba Fat (profile), 25 Aug 2020 @ 11:07pm

    A wide variety..

    A wide variety of groups take telecom cash to repeat whatever they're told...

    You forgot to include "senators and representatives".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2020 @ 4:27am

    My first thought reading the article is that it is a shame that the leadership is using the organization in such a way. If I were a parent/member I would be appalled and consider pulling my kids because of the clubs position on this. Then I got to the point in the article that said

    "Unfortunately, upon closer review we see that the last paragraph of the letter states that we support 'Charter’s petition to sunset merger conditions.' It was never our intention to officially support anything. "

    At that point I would just pull my kids out of the club because the leadership is so stupid.

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


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