With T-Mobile deal dead, AT&T is scaling back on lobbying force

Telecom behemoth AT&T has begun shedding lobbyists in the wake of its failed merger with T-Mobile.

At least four lobby firms that lobbied on the merger have filed termination reports this month indicating they no longer work for the phone company, according to lobbying disclosure records.

{mosads}“AT&T is not pursuing the T-Mobile merger deal at this time, so there is no need for them to retain lobbyists to focus on the merger,” a Democratic lobbyist said.

AT&T ramped up its lobbying spending in 2011 as it tried to win regulatory approval for the $39 billion deal. That effort failed in December, when a series of setbacks forced AT&T to drop the merger and swallow a one-time, $4 billion severance payment to T-Mobile.

A number of lobby firms earned big paydays working on AT&T’s behalf.

Holland & Knight earned $120,000 lobbying for AT&T during 2011, according to records, before the contract was canceled earlier this month. Former Rep. Jim Davis (D-Va.) was among the lobbyists on the account.

Rich Gold, who leads Holland & Knight’s public policy practice, declined to comment about the termination report.

Other firms have filed termination reports regarding their lobbying work on behalf of AT&T.

Capitol Hill Strategies took in $140,000 last year lobbying for AT&T, but the firm’s agreement with the company has ended, according to Senate records. Consequently, Chuck Brain, president of the firm and a former senior Clinton White House aide, is no longer lobbying for the company.

Capitol City Group earned $180,00 in lobbying fees during 2011 from the company, but that contract was up last month.

And JC Watts Companies’ contract with AT&T has been terminated after earning $200,000 in lobbying fees from the company last year. Steve Pruitt, a Democratic lobbyist and a former House Budget Committee staff director, was working on the account.

AT&T did not return messages seeking comment for this story.

The phone company’s K Street clout was supposed to be an ace in the hole in the merger fight.

AT&T made the $39 billion bid for T-Mobile in March. The deal would have made it the largest wireless carrier in the United States, and many expected the merger to sail through the regulatory review.

But the acquisition was beset with problems as watchdog groups and rival telecom companies lobbied against it. The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit in August over the merger, and the Federal Communications Commission released a stinging report criticizing it in November. By December, AT&T had officially dropped its bid.

Overall, AT&T spent more than $20.2 million on lobbying in 2011, according to lobbying disclosure records. That was a 31 percent increase over its lobbying spending in 2010, which was nearly $15.4 million.

Furthermore, AT&T’s spending during last year’s fourth quarter, more than $4.2 million, made it one of the top lobbying spenders for that time period.

A fifth firm, Patton Boggs, also filed a termination report for its lobbying contract with AT&T this month. But the firm did not report any lobbying activity on behalf of the company over the past year, while its affiliate, the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, is still under contract with AT&T, earning $480,000 in lobbying fees from the company in 2011, according to records.

James Christian, a partner at Patton Boggs, said the firm’s work on behalf of the company was unrelated to the merger.

“The terminated report was an older, technical matter and not work on the merger. Breaux Lott did work on the merger and that matter was not terminated,” Christian said.


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