The Comcast-Time Warner Deal Has a Surefire Winner

K Street is expecting a windfall as the duo defend their merger to federal watchdogs.

A sign showing K Street is shown 01 February 2006 in Washington,DC. A stone's throw from the White House, K Street is an alternative corridor of power in US politics, packed with thick carpeted offices and lobbyists with even deeper pockets.But the largesse that flowed from Jack Abramoff, an influential member of the K Street lobbying army, threatens now to rebound against the whole sector. Both opposition Democrats, and President George W. Bush's majority Republicans, who face the most serious charges from the Abramoff scandal, are making proposals to clamp down on lobbyists.There are an estimated 30,000 lobbyists working in Washington, mainly lawyers, working for groups ranging from big business contract hunters to turkey hunters who feel their pastime is under threat.For example, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and and Felt, a Texan firm, has about 100 lawyers in Washington who represent some 200 pressure groups and associations, making sure that lawmakers are aware of their concerns.
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
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Shane Goldmacher
Feb. 13, 2014, 6:48 a.m.

The ver­dict for con­sumers is still out in the mega-deal between Com­cast and Time Warner Cable. But for the Wash­ing­ton in­flu­ence in­dustry, the ver­dict was in the mo­ment they an­nounced the ac­cord: The mer­ger prom­ises to be a lob­by­ing bon­anza.

The sur­prise deal for Com­cast to buy Time Warner for $45.2 bil­lion is sure to at­tract the at­ten­tion of reg­u­lat­ors and law­makers on Cap­it­ol Hill as it reaches in­to the liv­ing rooms of mil­lions of Amer­ic­an house­holds. And de­fend­ing the pro­posed cable gi­ant to skep­tic­al gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials will be big busi­ness on K Street.

Com­cast was already one of the biggest play­ers in Wash­ing­ton, with an $18.8 mil­lion lob­by­ing budget in 2013. That ranked the com­pany as the sev­enth-biggest spend­er — out­pa­cing per­en­ni­al gi­ants in­clud­ing Gen­er­al Elec­tric, AT&T, and Boe­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. Time Warner spent $3.6 mil­lion on nearly three dozen lob­by­ists last year, as well.

Com­cast counts more than 100 lob­by­ists at its dis­pos­al. Among them is Meredith At­twell Baker, a former mem­ber of the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion, who left that post to join Com­cast four months after vot­ing to ap­prove a mer­ger between Com­cast and NBC Uni­ver­sal in 2011.

The 2013 com­bined lob­by­ing out­lays of Time Warner and Com­cast would rank fourth in the na­tion — be­hind only the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Re­altors, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

And that was be­fore the ex­pec­ted ramp-up to sell the mer­ger to Con­gress, the Justice De­part­ment, and the FCC.

That selling began on the con­fer­ence call an­noun­cing the deal. Com­cast Chief Ex­ec­ut­ive Bri­an Roberts ar­gued that the mer­ger was “ap­prov­able,” in part be­cause “it will not re­duce com­pet­i­tion in any rel­ev­ant mar­ket be­cause our com­pan­ies do not over­lap or com­pete with each oth­er.”

The com­bined com­pany would serve about 30 mil­lion cable cus­tom­ers. But con­sumer groups are already mo­bil­iz­ing to block the deal.

“No one woke up this morn­ing wish­ing their cable com­pany was big­ger or had more con­trol over what they could watch or down­load. But that — along with high­er bills — is the real­ity they’ll face to­mor­row un­less the De­part­ment of Justice and the FCC do their jobs and block this mer­ger,” said Craig Aaron, pres­id­ent of Free Press, in a state­ment.

With its suc­cess­ful con­sol­id­a­tion with NBC Uni­ver­sal only three years ago, Com­cast has proved it knows how to nav­ig­ate Wash­ing­ton’s reg­u­lat­ory world. But no mat­ter how ro­bust, no lob­by­ing cam­paign is a guar­an­tee of suc­cess.

AT&T and T-Mo­bile had to call off their pro­posed mega-deal in 2011 when a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar lob­by­ing push faltered. Both Justice and the FCC moved to scuttle the deal in spite of the lob­by­ing as­sault.

To get a sense of scale, AT&T was already one of Wash­ing­ton’s big­ger lob­by­ing op­er­a­tions, with a lob­by­ing budget of about $15 mil­lion in 2010. But that fig­ure climbed to $20 mil­lion in 2011 (T-Mo­bile’s spend­ing rose, as well).

By 2013, with the mer­ger dropped, AT&T’s lob­by­ing budget was back closer to $15 mil­lion.

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