AT&T beefs up lobbying after merger proposal

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AT&T spent more money on lobbying during 2016 in the midst of its proposed merger with Time Warner than it has since 2012.

The telecommunications company spent $16,370,000 in 2016, almost $2 million more than the $14,860,000 AT&T spent on lobbying in 2015.

At the time of this story’s publishing, Time Warner had not released its fourth quarter data on lobbying spending. However, in the first three quarters of 2016, the company had slightly increased its lobbying expenses from $2,026,000 in the first three quarters of 2015 to $2,187,000 in 2016. The media conglomerate did not list issues related to the merger as the cause of its 2016 spending in the first three quarters.  

In the last four years, AT&T only spent more in 2012 during their attempted, contentious horizontal merger with T-Mobile. The Department of Justice approved the merger, but the Federal Communications Commission ruled that the deal failed to meet “the burden of proving that the proposed transaction, on balance, will serve the public interest.” That year AT&T spent $17,460,000 on lobbying expenses.

{mosads}While AT&T cited “issues related to the proposed AT&T-Time Warner Inc. merger transaction” as a cause for spending lobbying in 2016, the telecommunication behemoth also lobbied in other areas. Some 2016 lobbying dollars spent included call spoofing, spectrum matters and the Email Privacy Act, which was just reintroduced in Congress, according to disclosure forms.  

AT&T’s proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner has received scrutiny from some lawmakers including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as well as President Trump, who said during the campaign that the deal would put too much power in the hands of too few.

Reports since Trump’s campaign have indicated that he is still opposed to the deal. During an interview with Axios in January, though, he said that he hasn’t “seen any of the facts, yet” about the merger.

During a congressional hearing in December, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes defended the merger, arguing that it would increase efficiency and allow them to pass savings onto consumers.

The AT&T–Time Warner deal will likely be reviewed by Trump’s attorney general pick, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose appointment is expected to be approved by Congress. Unlike AT&T’s attempted merger with T-Mobile, the FCC will not be reviewing the merger as a result of the companies’ decision to not transfer Time Warner’s FCC licenses in the deal.

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