When members of the California assembly’s communications and conveyances committee take their seats tomorrow, they’ll be looking out at – actually or virtually – big telecoms lobbyists that 1. pay millions of dollars for laws they love and 2. hate the two broadband bills that are on the covid-shortened agenda. Senate bill 1130 raises California minimum broadband standard to symmetrical 25 Mbps download/25 Mbps upload speeds, and SB 431 imposes back up power and web browsing requirements on mobile carriers (but not on cable company VoIP or telcos’ ersatz wireless broadband, thanks to those same lobbyists).
The twelve members of the C&C committee pocketed a total of $1.7 million from the communications and electronics sector over the course of their legislative careers, according to data from the Follow the Money website. That doesn’t yet include money paid during this election year. Much of it comes from AT&T – the top contributor in the sector – and cable companies, such as Comcast and Charter Communications, which together take second place. Members of the California senate’s energy, utilities and communications committee have raked in even more cash.
Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles) chairs C&C, and has used the authority that goes with the job to keep his patrons happy. When a network neutrality bill – SB 822 – was under consideration two years ago, he strong armed killer amendments into it, pleasing telcos and cable companies, but enraging online opinion. The ensuing meme storm forced him to back down. That was unusual, though. Typically, he follows the monopoly model telecom playbook, except when organised labor – an even bigger benefactor – objects.
Through the end of last year, AT&T paid Santiago $43,000, including $10,000 via a side organisation – sometimes referred to as a ballot measure committee – that Santiago operates. It allows him to get around legal limits on direct payments. Comcast, Charter and other cable companies have matched that, with $43,000 paid between them (all totals are rounded and include payments from affiliates now owned or controlled by cable and telco parents). Mobile companies (other than AT&T) gave Santiago $25,000 and Frontier kicked in $9,000. All up, Santiago has raked in $262,000 from companies and individuals in the communications and electronics sector.
Evan Low (D – Santa Clara), who also does a good day’s work for AT&T, does even better than Santiago. Industry payments to Low total $351,000 – more than anyone else on the C&C committee. He represents a slice of Silicon Valley, and collects a lot of that money from tech companies. But big telecom pays him handsomely, too. He’s taken $58,000 from AT&T, including $18,000 to his
slush fund ballot measure committee. Comcast, Charter and other cable companies put $47,000 in Low’s pocket, other mobile interests gave him $22,000 and Frontier paid him $4,000.
Eduardo Garcia (D – Imperial), Santiago’s other reliable wingman on the committee, has been paid $107,000 by communications and electronics industry interests, but most of it – $79,000 – came from big telecom. He doesn’t have a side hustle – yet – so those are all direct payments. Garcia took $29,000 from AT&T, $4,000 from Frontier, $34,000 from Charter, Comcast and other cable companies, and $13,000 from the mobile industry (ex AT&T). On the other hand, Garcia has signed on as a co-author of SB 1130 – we’ll soon find other whether it’s for good or ill.
The covid-19 restrictions in force at the state capitol mean that remote public participation is allowed. The call-in number is supposed to be posted on the committee’s website tomorrow morning, ahead of the 10:00 a.m. scheduled starting time.
Legislative career payments from communications and electronics industry sector, as of 31 December 2019
|California assembly communications and conveyance committee members|
|Miguel Santiago (chair)||D – Los Angeles||$252,258|
|Jay Obernolte (vice chair)||R – San Bernardino||$127,941|
|Tasha Boerner Horvath||D – San Diego||$40,850|
|Rob Bonta||D – Alameda||$201,249|
|Sabrina Cervantes||D – Riverside||$62,100|
|Eduardo Garcia||D – Imperial||$107,125|
|Chris Holden||D – Los Angeles||$249,318|
|Sydney Kamlager-Dove||D – Los Angeles||$69,455|
|Evan Low||D – Santa Clara||$333,184|
|Jim Patterson||R – Fresno||$135,725|
|Sharon Quirk-Silva||D – Orange||$84,248|
|Freddie Rodriguez||D – Los Angeles||$79,567|
|California senate energy, utilities and communications committee members|
|Ben Hueso (chair)||D – San Diego||$185,663|
|John Moorlach (vice chair)||R – San Diego||$68,000|
|Steven Bradford||D – Los Angeles||$372,632|
|Ling Ling Chang||R – Orange||$117,208|
|Brian Dahle||R – Lassen||$187,548|
|Bill Dodd||D – Napa||$149,584|
|Bob Hertzberg||D – Los Angeles||$347,212|
|Jerry Hill||D – San Mateo||$290,366|
|Mike McGuire||D – Sonoma||$78,169|
|Susan Rubio||D – Los Angeles||$24,449|
|Nancy Skinner||D – Alameda||$264,803|
|Henry Stern||D – Los Angeles||$185,385|
|Scott Wiener||D – San Francisco||$294,031|
|Source: FollowTheMoney.org, California secretary of state’s office|
I’ve advocated for SB 1130, and for other useful changes to CASF. I am involved and proud of it. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.