Comcast Lobbying Expected to Pay Off in Washington
For Comcast, the millions of dollars it has invested in Congress are definitely paying off. The company is finding a mostly warm reception in Congress for a proposed merger with Time Warner.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, the company has top proponents from both sides of the aisle in Pennsylvania like Senator Pat Toomey (R–PA), a long time supporter of the merger.
In response to a piece written by The Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti, who showed Comcast’s and Time Warner’s numerous connections to Democratic members of Congress, Toomey’s office replied, “Senator Toomey supports this merger because it’s good for Philly and Pennsylvania’s economy and job market.”
Comcast, the number one cable provider in the country, spent $18.8 million on lobbying members of Congress last year. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes the cable company outspent Google, ExxonMobil, Verizon and Boeing, among others. In fact, Comcast and its partners have given $2 million to candidates in both parties for this election cycle up to this point.
The top recipients of Comcast’s donations are: House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Chris Coons (D – DE), Sen. Edward Markey (D – MA), Sen. Mark Pryor (D – AR), Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Greg Walden, (R – OR).
These contributions are in addition to the $1.3 million of Comcast’s donations to PACs and their associated individuals. The National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Republican National Committee, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee all top the list of contributions received from Comcast this year. Comcast’s contributions from 1989 through the present, remained relatively consistent between Republicans and Democrats depending upon which party held which chamber; who was representing Pennsylvania; or which member of Congress sat on a particular committee related to telecom issues.
Aides to Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Toomey, as well as Comcast told the Inquirer that it was unfair to assume a quid pro quo exists through campaign donations.
"It's demeaning to elected officials to suggest that their support can be bought," said David L. Cohen, Comcast's executive vice president and top government-affairs official. "There's never any quid pro quo."
Indeed, many U.S. companies, large and small, give donations to one or both political parties and sometimes receive little if only a thank you letter in return, which is why some wonder about Comcast’s extra step involving the company in helping the Obama administration promote and move legislation forward, like the health care reform bill.
In 2009, on the same day Comcast announced its acquisition of NBC Universal, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts sent President Barack Obama a letter proclaiming his support for the Senate health care bill and offered to help the administration, through his company, promote it and later implement it. The pairing of Comcast and NBCU was politically ideal for the administration, particularly after the rough roll-out of healthcare.gov.
Along with having MSNBC talking heads touting the merits of the Affordable Care Act, by September 27 2013, NBC News announced it would broadcast a special series of programs and reports meant to “help Americans get the most out of the Affordable Care Act.” The series appeared on network programming as “NBC Nightly News” and “Today,” as well as on social media and other online outlets.
However, when the bad news hit, NBC clammed up. On November 21, 2013, The Media Research Center’s blog Newsbusters pointed out that NBC News made no mention for 72 hours that millions of Americans would lose their health insurance and the resulting backlash towards the President and his party. On the other hand, CBS and ABC did report about the lost policies and that the administration was aware of the problems with Healthcare.gov as early as March 2013.
Comcast has plenty of friends within the administration and in Congress today. The Free Beacon pointed out recently that Harry Reid’s chief of staff is David Krone, Comcast’s former Vice President. Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, a former aide to Governor Ed Rendell, and Time Warner Cable Executive Vice President Arthur Minson on Wednesday.
The merger has gotten support from key conservatives as well.
The Heritage Foundation is also supporting the merger, despite questions regarding Comcast’s management actively working against conservative policies.
“When there’s a merger or regulatory issue, I put aside whether it’s a Democratic firm—whether the CEO is Democratic or Republican or what their politics are. I think a lot of their politics are misguided, but that doesn’t color my view of the economics of the situation,” said the Heritage Foundation’s James Gattuso to Breitbart News.
However, other conservative groups released a coalition letter Tuesdsay morning aimed at Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee "demanding scrutiny of the merger because of the Obama Administration’s record of politicizing the Justice Department and engaging in Crony Capitalism." Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, a signatory of the letter, told Breitbart News, " A combined Comcast Time Warnershould not prejudicially restrict Blaze TV's access to cable subscribers. Since Comcast more than Time Warner is a content provider and content owner through its ownership of NBC and its various component parts, one could argue that Comcast might determine that it is in their competitive best interest to restrict such access."