Not content to sit on its laurels while it waits for various agencies to scrutinize and either approve or deny its $45.2 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast has unleashed an army of lobbyists and influencers on Washington D.C.
According to newly filed federal disclosures, Comcast has employed more than 80 in-house and outside lobbyists to spin the positives of the merger and to address broader competition concerns and issues related to net neutrality. Since announcing the merger in February, Comcast has deployed an army of lobbyists in D.C. and has taken advantage of Time Warner Cable's own deep roster of consultants.
But where lobbyists can't get the job done, campaign contributions are doing a little bit of the heavy lifting.
Comcast spent $290,000 in campaign contributions to members of Congress in March, more than twice what it spent in the previous month. That might explain why there are very few lawmakers opposing the deal, save Democratic Minnesota Senator Al Franken.
The developments underscore Comcast’s extensive campaign as Washington begins to evaluate the company’s bid for Time Warner Cable. Both the Justice Department and FCC are scrutinizing the deal, while Congress has its next hearing on the merger slated for early May.
When asked about all this new activity, Comcast spokeswoman Joelle Terry told Politico that the company has been "reaching out to share how the transaction will allow us to continue driving innovation and responding to an intensely competitive environment." She pledged Comcast would "continue to share the public interest benefits" of the deal going forward.
Comcast spent a total of $3 million in lobbying during the first quarter of this year, down from the $4.4 million it spent over the same period in 2013. Despite that spending dip, Comcast’s reach is more extensive when combined with the $1.9 million that Time Warner Cable shelled out for lobbying in the quarter. Together, the two companies’ efforts dwarfed what opponents of the deal have been able to spend.
Netflix, which formally opposed the deal earlier this week, spent $300,000 on lobbying between Jan. 1 and April 1. Its federal disclosure indicated that the company was focusing on competition and net neutrality.
Groups such as Consumers Union and Writers Guild of America West also spent small amounts of money to oppose the Comcast deal. Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze TV devoted part of its $10,000 first-quarter lobbying bill to fight the transaction, oddly enough. And BBC Worldwide America disclosed for the first time it’s lobbying on “issues” related to the transaction, though it didn’t give specifics.
Both Comcast and Time Warner Cable also continued to donate heavily to lawmakers’ re-election campaigns. The Comcast PAC donated to lawmakers in both parties, bringing its total in the 2014 election cycle to about $2.4 million. Most notably, Comcast wrote a $2,500 check to the leadership PAC affiliated with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House’s telecom subcommittee. Her leadership PAC also took a small donation from Time Warner Cable’s PAC, to the tune of $60,000 to lawmakers in March, according to federal records. That brings its 2014 cycle total to more than $620,000.