Cable companies shell out for lobbyists ahead of merger decision

Comcast and Time Warner Cable forked over more than $5 million on lobbying in the first three months of this year, according to recently disclosed lobbying records.

The two cable giants are pushing regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve their proposed $45 billion merger, which they say will lead to faster Internet and better service. Skeptics warn the deal will offer few benefits and cause consumers’ bills to go up.

Comcast, the largest cable company in the country, spent $3.09 million to pay for dozens of lobbyists so far this year. Among those were at least 27 different firms to focus specifically on the Time Warner Cable merger or “competition” issues.

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Time Warner Cable spent $1.93 million on lobbyists, including at least four shops focusing on the merger or “competition” in the marketplace.

Among the hired lobbyists are multiple former lawmakers and staffers on Capitol Hill.

Opponents of the merger have warned that the cable giants’ use of the “revolving door” will pay dividends as the acquisition proposal makes its way across regulators’ desks and under the spotlight on Capitol Hill. 

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has been the most vocal critic of the deal in Congress, said at a hearing this month that Comcast has “over 100 lobbyists making the case for this deal to members of Congress and our staffs” but that he has heard from “over 100,000 consumers who oppose this deal. And I think their voices need to be heard, too.”

The two companies do not currently compete in any of the same areas, which cable executives have said should ease regulators’ concerns.

However, Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable would put the company in 19 of the top 20 media markets, and have it control a significant portion of both the cable TV and broadband Internet marketplaces. Public interest advocates and other critics like Netflix have warned that would give it too much market power. 

In addition to the mega-merger, the cable companies’ lobbyists also set their targets on a range of tax, intellectual property and cybersecurity issues.