Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who expressed concern this week about how federal regulators treated AT&T’s $39 billion merger with T-Mobile, has a connection to the carrier: His son is a lobbyist for AT&T.
Andrew Blunt, a son of the senator, is registered to lobby for AT&T in Missouri, according to a disclosure filing. He is also listed as a strategist for Washington lobby shop Cassidy & Associates, which had AT&T as a client worth $150,000 this year, though Blunt is not assigned to that account.
Sen. Blunt was one of the only members of Congress to take a public stand questioning the Federal Communications Commission’s process on AT&T’s proposed merger. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski moved to block the deal last week, saying it is anticompetitive and not in the public interest.
Sen. Blunt’s spokeswoman Amber Marchand said there’s no conflict of interest.
"The senator's son is not and has never been a federal lobbyist, and he has no contact or affiliation with his father on legislative matters before Congress,” she said.
Sen. Blunt does not have a position on the merger, she added.
But he raised questions at a Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday on whether the FCC had violated process in its merger review when it released a 157-page staff report denouncing the AT&T deal.
AT&T sees that as a process violation because it came after AT&T had withdrawn its merger application in an attempt to sidestep the legal battle.
Blunt saw that as troubling, too.
“I was concerned when the commission staff, I guess today, released their view of that merger even though the request had been withdrawn,” he said at the hearing. “If there’s no commission action pending, should the commission gratuitously put information out there?”
The hearing witnesses, bipartisan nominees to the FCC, answered carefully.
The Democratic nominee Jessica Rosenworcel, the top telecom lawyer for the committee, said she believes “it’s within [the FCC chairman's] statutory authority, but I will acknowledge it's probably unprecedented."
GOP nominee Ajit Pai said he would "view the discretion [of the FCC] as one that should be exercised very carefully" but added he wasn't briefed on the issue.
The merger, which would crown AT&T the biggest wireless company in the country, is also facing a challenge from the Justice Department.