Sorry!! The article you are trying to read is not available now.

AT&T Buys T-Mobile Merger Support With Payoffs to United Way, NAACP, Governor's Wife

Print comment Post Comments
How does a company like AT&T convince the FCC that its proposed takeover of T-Mobile is in the public interest?

Pay off Donate money to a bunch of public-interest groups in exchange for their support, what else?

Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post reports that roughly 300 letters in favor of the deal have been sent to the Commission, and lists a few that "stand out":

AT&T-sponsored Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce urged the FCC to quickly approve the deal, saying that as a group “striving to create bridges between cultures, we look forward to the foundation that this merger will create and the opportunities that it will give the public.”

The Urban League of Portland sent a similar letter to the FCC, saying the merger could help minorities gain faster access to broadband through a more robust, combined company. AT&T donated $125,000 to $249,999 last year to the National Urban League’s annual convention, the group said on its Web site.

Kang also notes that the NAACP -- which has "direct financial ties" to AT&T -- has voiced its support for the T-Mobile takeover, as has Governor Bobby Jindal (R), Louisiana, whose wife's charity, the Supriya Jindal Foundation, counts AT&T as a "key sponsor."

Stop the Cap!, a consumer advocacy group so named for its position against broadband data caps and "other Internet overcharging schemes" writes:

As we suspected, after reviewing dozens of submissions favoring the merger, virtually every last supporter either had direct financial ties to AT&T, had AT&T personnel in leadership positions, or were run by Washington, DC lobbying firms that have a past history of doing work on behalf of AT&T.  Ordinary consumers, and there were thousands, submitted comments opposing the merger — citing reduced competition, higher prices, fewer choices, and offering few benefits or improved service.  At least some live in the reality-based community, not AT&T’s field of overpriced dreams and broken promises.

Why would an organization such as the United Way of Northwest Florida take the time to dash off a letter to the FCC about why the AT&T/T-Mobile merger should be permitted?

Sadly, it appears they were bought off for a measly 9,000 bucks.

Stop the Cap! says:

While this chapter believes the interests of cell phone users will be best served by an AT&T – T-Mobile merger, we’re wondering what actual charitable endeavors go unserved while its leadership wastes time and resources filing comments with the FCC on a billion dollar telecom deal.

Of course, the same can be said for the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, whose president, Dr. Juan Andrade, is positively bubbling over with praise for the proposed takeover:

“Like you, I too have heard that the merger will have a devastating impact on consumers, promote anti-competitive behavior, and result in higher prices; that the merger will be bad for business, bad for innovation and bad for workers. We’ve heard this all before – when SBC was acquiring Ameritech, when AT&T was merging with SBC, and so forth. And what have we seen? We’ve seen just the opposite. The Federal Communications Commission’s own data show that these concerns proved unfounded as consumers benefited from tremendous innovation and competition in the wireless space, all while seeing wireless voice and data prices drop. This “sky is falling” attitude is replaying itself as AT&T seeks approval to merge with T-Mobile. But the facts speak for themselves. The United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) believes the Federal Communications Commission should rise above the skepticism, above the unsubstantiated claims, and above the impractical requisitions.”

That's right! Rise above the skepticism and the unsubstantiated claims, Federal Communications Commission, and listen to Dr. Andrade -- who can't possibly have been influenced by the fact that AT&T, as Stop the Cap! discovered, is listed as the “honorary co-chair” and sponsor of USHLI’s 2011 National Conference.

All in a day's work, says Ellen Miller, executive director of campaign finance reform group the Sunlight Foundation.

“They have curried favor with organizations who, whether through direct or indirect expectations, will go to bat for them,” she told the WashPo's Kang. “That’s what a sophisticated lobby does, and AT&T is among the top of this in Washington.”
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.