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Friday, February 21, 2014

Corporate Rent-a-Friend

Many posts have explained that economic interest groups use charitable contributions to gain political allies. As Eric Lipton reports in The New York Times, Comcast is an example:
Only a few hours had passed after the $45 billion merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable was announced last week when an early voice emerged endorsing the giant deal.
“Win-win situation for American businesses,” said the statement from theUnited 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.
The story goes on to identify 54 different groups that backed the deal — by writing the Federal Communications Commission or signing agreements — that had received contributions from Comcast's charitable foundation.