Comcast cash and lobbyists grab southern California beachhead

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Money to burn.

Comcast’s acquisition of Time-Warner continues forward, with little apparent notice of the focused but relatively small opposition it’s attracted. That’s thanks in large part to the army of lobbyists Comcast keeps on staff and on retainer to make its case at the local and state level. It’s now redeploying troops from its northern California stronghold to the south, where it would gain a controlling share of the market by adding the Time-Warner systems in the greater Los Angeles area.

Nationally, Comcast is mobilising its lobbyists – staff and hired guns alike – who come bearing cash contributions to politicians without apology, according to a Politico story by Tony Romm…

Asked about the company’s lobbying and donations, Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said the cable giant, which owns NBC, already operates in 39 states. “It is important and will continue to be important for our customers, our employees, and our shareholders that we participate in the political process and support senators and members who represent our employees and customers,” she said.

In California alone, that participation has pumped more than a million dollars into political pockets, greasing the skids for Comcast to extend its control of the northern half state south through Los Angeles.

Moving staff lobbyists south to work local officials complements the baleful influence it has nurtured in Sacramento with lawmakers from all over the state. Their bag of tricks includes a cynical reboot of Comcast’s low-income Internet service plan, which it first offered to help blunt opposition its earlier acquisition of NBC and was about to shut down before the Time-Warner deal popped up. This time, Comcast won’t say how long it’ll keep the offer on the table, which amounts to a threat to pull it if the merger doesn’t go through.

There are legitimate arguments that can be made in favor of the merger. But political muscle is far more compelling and, legitimate or not, that’s the path Comcast is taking in California and Washington, DC.