Comcast has become one of the most active participants in Washington’s infamous revolving door as it lobbies for a proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable (TWC), according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).
A recent CRP analysis found that 18 people have both lobbied for Comcast and spent time in the public sector. Twelve are currently lobbyists at Comcast, with five of them having spent time at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC and Justice Department are currently evaluating the potential merger.
The most prominent example of Comcast’s revolving door is Meredith Baker, a former FCC commissioner who became Comcast’s senior vice president of government affairs in June 2011. Baker made the jump from the FCC to Comcast just five months after the FCC approved Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal.
Baker denied that the move represented a conflict of interest, saying in a statement that she had “not participated or voted any item, not just those related to Comcast or NBC Universal, since entering discussions about an offer of potential employment."
Comcast has also recruited lobbyists from congressional offices and vice versa. The cable giant recently hired a former staffer from the House Judiciary Committee—a committee that helps oversee merger approval processes—in the latest move of what Politico has called a “K Street stimulus package.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D., Nev.) chief of staff, David Krone, formerly worked as Comcast’s senior vice president for corporate affairs.
Comcast has donated thousands to virtually every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, another committee that oversees the merger approval process. Larger sums went to Democrats.
Comcast employs more than 100 lobbyists in total and spent almost $19 million on lobbying last year.
The company has extensive ties to the Democratic Party, donating about $18 million to Democratic political campaigns since 1989—more than half of all its total donations. Comcast’s CEO is a golfing buddy of President Barack Obama, and his executive vice president has raised millions for Obama’s campaigns.
Critics say the merger would limit competition and raise prices for consumers. Local businesses, small advertisers, independent networks, and political campaigns are also concerned that the deal could favor regional and national advertisers.
A combined Comcast-TWC would own significant portions of the local, regional, and national intermediaries through which advertisers purchase spots in the $5.4 billion local cable advertising market. Critics say that would enable Comcast to favor regional and national businesses over local ones, or even certain political campaign advertising if it wanted to.
Comcast did not respond to a request for comment.