How business controls government: Comcast merger

From this morning’s New York Times:

“Win-win situation for American businesses,” said the statement from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

It was the start of what Comcast executives acknowledge will be a carefully orchestrated campaign, as the company will seek hundreds of such expressions of support for the deal — from members of Congress, state officials and leaders of nonprofit and minority-led groups — as it tries to nudge federal authorities to approve the merger.

But what the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce did not mention in its statement praising the transaction was that it had collected at least $320,000 over the last five years from Comcast’s charitable foundation, which is run in part by David L. Cohen, the Comcast executive who oversees the corporation’s government affairs operations.

It is a hint, critics say, of just how sophisticated Comcast’s lobbying machine is, an enterprise that, like the company itself, reaches across the United States and has more than 100 registered lobbyists in Washington alone.

That team, as of the end of last year, featured five former members of Congress. But it also included Meredith Attwell Baker, who left the Federal Communications Commission in 2011 to help lead Comcast’s internal lobbying office in Washington — just five months after she voted to approve a big deal for Comcast, its takeover of NBCUniversal.

… The merger with NBC offers a case study of how central a role this network of nonprofit groups can play when the company is seeking regulatory actions by the government, particularly the F.C.C., which weighs a commitment to local communities and diversity when making its decision.

The F.C.C. case file on the merger with NBC includes at least 54 groups that Comcast has donated money to — including small entities like the Centro de la Familia de Utah and the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel — that wrote letters to the agency in 2010 urging it to approve the transaction, or signed an agreement with Comcast endorsing it, according to a review of the file by The Center for Public Integrity and The New York Times. Comcast highlighted most of the letters on its own website.

These groups received at least $8.6 million from the Comcast Foundation over nearly a decade through 2012, not including other donations from the corporation directly, the analysis found.

The correlation between giving and support for its deals extends to Congress: 91 of the 97 members of Congress who signed a letter in 2011 supporting the Comcast NBC merger received contributions during that same election cycle from the company’s political action committee or executives.

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This entry was posted in Business Interests--The Real Purpose of the State, Contempt for Democracy. Bookmark the permalink.

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