AT&T, Comcast, Charter paying big bucks to California’s anti-net neutrality legislators

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

California’s biggest telecoms companies – AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter Communications and their lobbying fronts – are being very generous to the members of the assembly’s communications and conveyances committee who ripped the guts out of senate bill 822 back in June. That’s the bill, authored by senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco) that would restore network neutrality rules in California. If governor Jerry Brown signs it.

The damage done was reversed, after netizens went feral on the committee’s chair, assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles) and democratic party leaders leaned on him. But both the result and the process Santiago used to ram the amendments through were a low point in legislative integrity in Sacramento this year.

According to research done by MapLight, a non-profit that tracks political money, big telecom’s friends got big telecoms bucks (h/t to Fred Pilot at the Eldo Telecom blog for the heads up)…

The 11 California lawmakers who let amendments that would have gutted a landmark net neutrality measure pass through a key committee received almost $1 of every $6 contributed by internet service providers during the current election cycle, according to a MapLight analysis.

Since the beginning of 2017, the Assembly members who either abstained or voted for the June amendments that weakened the net neutrality bill received more than $220,000 in contributions from Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Charter Communications, and the California Cable & Telecom Association. During the current election cycle, the industry has made about $1.3 million in campaign donations to Assembly members and candidates.

According to a Sacramento Bee article by Bryan Anderson, Santiago raked in almost $40,000 from the telecoms companies, the most of any of his colleagues. Second place went to one of his allies, Evan Low (D – Santa Clara), who accepted $35,000 in payments from the same companies. Low provided key support for Santiago at the hearing, and carried a bill for AT&T in 2016 that would have allowed the telco to rip out copper networks and replace them with low capacity wireless systems.

Santiago’s other wingman in the debacle, Eduardo Garcia (D – Imperial), who authored last year’s subsidy giveaway to AT&T and other incumbent Internet service providers, has also done well. Big telecoms interests have, so far, paid him $24,600 in this election cycle, according to FollowThe Money.org.