Fighting net neutrality, telecom companies, outside lobbyists, cluster contributions to members of Congress


While the Federal Communications Commission considers the first steps toward ensuring net neutrality–making certain that broadband providers do not discriminate against high traffic sites–the telecom firms that would be affected by the rules and their trade groups have been swamping Congress with a one-two punch of campaign contributions from the companies and their registered lobbyists. Some 244 members of Congress were the beneficiaries of these contribution clusters–totaling more than $9.4 million–from January 2007 to June 2009, an investigative collaboration of the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics has found. Telecom interests and their lobbyists engaged in more clustered giving than any industry save pharmaceuticals.

Overall, the top recipient of the largess was Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who took in $894,379 (many of those contributions were directed to his 2008 presidential campaign). The telecom interests also targeted House and Senate leaders: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was next with $341,089, followed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. ($275,275), Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus, D-Mont. ($248,999) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ($198,972).

Broadband providers have attempted to enlist members of Congress in an effort to block action on net neutrality rules by the FCC. Verizon and AT&T have been particularly active in this effort; they also were the sources of all the clustered contributions among broadband providers, with AT&T and its outside lobbyists combining to give to 110 members, followed by Comcast (105 members) and Verizon (96 members).

The analysis was based on a survey of giving by eight large broadband providers and two trade associations that represent them, all of which have disclosed lobbying on net neutrality issues. We looked for outside lobbyists of these interests who contributed to the same members of Congress as their clients had. For example, 55 lobbyists who reported AT&T as a client collectively contributed $170,800 to Sen. John McCain; AT&T’s employees, their family members, and its political action committee contributed $206,438 to McCain. The greater the number of such clusters coming from a particular interest, the more likely it is that that member is being targeted by the interest.

As noted <a href=””>here</a>, for example, McCain introduced legislation today to block the FCC from writing net neutrality regulations.

As Congress considers legislation that would codify net neutrality into law, telecom firms are hoping to cut a better deal on Capitol Hill than they are likely to get from the FCC.

Biggest Clusters: Top telecom industry client-lobbyist contributions
Client Member No. of Lobbyists*
Client contributions
Lobbyist contributions
AT&T Inc McCain, John 55 $206,438 $170,800
AT&T Inc McConnell, Mitch 39 $18,500 $66,050
AT&T Inc Cornyn, John 26 $13,750 $33,900
AT&T Inc Wicker, Roger 26 $11,750 $33,625
AT&T Inc Baucus, Max 25 $4,000 $37,300
AT&T Inc Pryor, Mark 22 $14,500 $18,500
AT&T Inc Hoyer, Steny H 21 $23,000 $47,775
AT&T Inc Chambliss, Saxby 21 $18,400 $33,350
AT&T Inc Blunt, Roy 21 $10,500 $62,650
AT&T Inc Cantor, Eric 21 $10,500 $49,500
AT&T Inc Udall, Mark 21 $6,500 $24,183
AT&T Inc Landrieu, Mary L 20 $16,030 $27,000
Comcast Corp McCain, John 30 $62,452 $70,925
Comcast Corp McConnell, Mitch 27 $19,500 $49,322
Comcast Corp Rockefeller, Jay 23 $25,000 $25,200
Comcast Corp Reid, Harry 21 $57,400 $62,200
Comcast Corp Baucus, Max 21 $27,500 $33,499
Comcast Corp Warner, Mark 21 $18,883 $21,483
National Cable & Telecommunications Assn McCain, John 31 $21,200 $73,550
National Cable & Telecommunications Assn Warner, Mark 23 $6,000 $24,983
Time Warner McCain, John 30 $31,733 $71,550
Time Warner Warner, Mark 23 $29,350 $28,350
Time Warner Reid, Harry 22 $38,800 $66,450
Time Warner Rockefeller, Jay 21 $12,000 $22,500
Verizon Communications McCain, John 59 $64,126 $159,527
Verizon Communications Warner, Mark 39 $36,300 $49,800
Verizon Communications Baucus, Max 39 $35,000 $56,250
Verizon Communications McConnell, Mitch 34 $21,750 $53,750
Verizon Communications Reid, Harry 34 $7,000 $76,589
Verizon Communications Rockefeller, Jay 30 $28,000 $35,850
Verizon Communications Meek, Kendrick B 30 $5,650 $35,648
Verizon Communications Pryor, Mark 28 $3,000 $33,350
Verizon Communications Dodd, Chris 27 $1,500 $62,600
Verizon Communications Cantor, Eric 26 $29,200 $64,800
Verizon Communications Udall, Mark 26 $4,950 $30,616
Verizon Communications Roberts, Pat 25 $6,250 $29,850
Verizon Communications Clyburn, James E 24 $18,500 $41,455
Verizon Communications Hoyer, Steny H 23 $40,300 $50,700
Verizon Communications Cornyn, John 23 $10,000 $25,100
Verizon Communications Durbin, Dick 22 $13,700 $28,350
Verizon Communications Collins, Susan M 21 $35,450 $27,900
Verizon Communications Johnson, Tim 21 $6,500 $25,600

*Number of lobbyists refers to the total number of outside lobbyists retained by an individual client who gave to the member.