Comcast, the largest cable provider in the country, has been hard at work the past few months sweet-talking regulators and currying favor in their bid to merge with America's second largest provider, Time Warner Cable. Should the $45.2 Billion acquisition be approved it would cede more than 30% of the national market to just one company, giving Comcast what some have been quick to describe as a monopoly.
With 124 registered lobbyists on their payroll (including 5 former members of Congress), over $20 million in annual political spending, and well-documented ties to a number of current regulators, Comcast has been quietly expanding their web of influence. Now it seems to be paying off:
In a letter extolling his support for the proposed Comcast-TWC merger, N.Y. State Assembly Leader Joe Morelle borrowed heavily from testimony Comcast Exec. VP David Cohen gave at a Congressional hearing earlier this year.
Below is a side-by-side comparison:
|David Cohen, executive VP Comcast:||
N.Y. State Assembly Leader Joe Morelle:
|“The combination of Comcast and TWC will create a world-class communications, media, and technology company to help meet the insatiable consumer demand for advanced digital services on multiple devices in homes, workplaces, and on-the-go.”||“The combination of Comcast and Time Warner Cable will create a world-class communications, media and technology company to help meet the increasing consumer demand for advanced digital services on multiple devices in homes, workplaces and on-the-go.”|
|“Comcast has a proven record of investing in new technologies, facilities, and customer support to provide the best in broadband Internet access, video, and digital voice services.”||“Comcast has a proven record of investing in new technologies, facilities and customer support to provide the best in broadband Internet access, video and digital voice services.”|
|“Through this merger, more American consumers will benefit from technological innovations, including a superior video experience, higher broadband speeds, and the fastest in-home Wi-Fi. The transaction also will generate significant cost savings and other efficiencies.”||“Residential customers will benefit from technological innovations including a superior video experience, higher broadband speeds and the fastest in-home Wi-Fi, while also generating significant cost savings and other efficiencies.”|
|“In just two and a half years, over 300,000 families, representing some 1.2 million low-income consumers, have been connected to the transformative power of the Internet thanks to this program. The transaction will extend this vital program to millions more Americans in the areas currently served by TWC.”||“In just two-and-a-half years, over 350,000 families, representing approximately 1.4 million low-income consumers, have been connected to the Internet thanks to this program. This proposed merger would extend this vital program to many more low-income households in New York by providing access to it in certain areas of the state currently only served by Time Warner."|
Rather than represent his constituents, who by the way overwhelming oppose the merger, Morelle instead blatantly copies Mr.Cohen's testimony and in doing so becomes a literal representation of the disconnect between politicians and voters. In today's America, if you don't have a team of lobbyists or thousands of dollars to contribute to political campaigns, your interests have little impact on the decisions made by our elected officials.
We should all be asking some serious questions about a review process that allows the conversation to be dominated by the Comcast lobby while smaller, less connected voices fall to the fringe. At a time when mergers move billions of dollars and create massive consolidations of power, I think we all need to know who is pulling the strings and seriously ask ourselves: “Could this culture of influence be corrupting the of, by, and for the people ideal that our nation was founded on?”