Comcast honors FCC commissioner with $110,000 contribution

by Steve Blum • , , ,

No conflict of interest, it seems.

FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn was – and still is, really – to be honored at a dinner sponsored in part by Comcast and Time-Warner, despite the fact she is reviewing, and will presumably vote on, their proposed merger. The occasion is the Walter Kaitz foundation dinner next month, where she’ll receive the group’s diversity award for being the first African-American woman to chair the FCC, a position she held last year while Tom Wheeler was waiting to be confirmed by the the U.S. senate.

Comcast bought sponsorship status for $110,000, while Time-Warner opted for a lower level at $22,000, although they claim it was before they knew Clyburn was getting the award. But pre-meditated or not, it was hugely convenient and the two companies attempted to stay in the game despite the appearance of influence buying. Criticism made them back down. Sorta. According to a story on Politico.com, they gave up name sponsorship but kept their money on the table…

Both Comcast and Time Warner Cable said they will instead donate to the foundation at the same level in a more general capacity. Comcast will make an “unrestricted contribution” of $110,000 “so that the Foundation can continue its important work".

But the dinner will go on and the Kaitz foundation will have $132,000 to spend as it pleases, no different than if the sponsorships were explicit. Even if the payments hadn’t received massive publicity, Clyburn and everyone else at the dinner will know where the money came from. And she will still be able to vote on the merger.