Congressman From Comcast

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Philadelphia congressman Robert Brady recently joined 71 other lawmakers in signing a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) questioning the commission’s newly stated policy of network neutrality, which would prohibit Internet providers from favoring or discriminating against types of traffic coming across their lines. Of the 72 letter signatories, Brady is the leading recipient of campaign contributions from the combination of telecom companies and their lobbyists. Since 2007, Brady has received a total of $91,650, all from one company and their lobbyists, the Philadelphia-based Comcast Corporation.

Brady has a long standing history of supporting the policies of Comcast Corporation. In 2006, Brady, along with 38 of the other letter signatories, voted against an amendment to the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006 that would have established a federal net neutrality policy.

The Democratic letter signatories have stated that the letter is not a letter of opposition, but instead simply a voice for concern. The previous voting behavior of a large number of signatories is one sign that this is not the case. The similarity that the letter bares to public statements by Comcast executives is another sign that the agenda of the signatories is closely linked to that of the companies opposing the policy shift.

The letter signed by Brady and 71 other Democrats mimics the language released by Comcast after the FCC’s announcement of a net neutrality proposal. The Democratic letter reads as follows, “…we believe in a transparent, data-driven process and stand ready to work with you on measures that will spur adoption and expand the use of broadband networks. But we remain suspicious of conclusions based on slogans rather than substance and of policies that restrict and inhibit the very innovation and growth that we all seek to achieve.” Comcast’s executive vice president issued a statement with almost identical language, “We appreciate and support Chairman Genachowski’s commitment to have a fair, fact-based, and data driven process to explore these issues. We continue to hope that any rules adopted by the Commission will not harm the investment and innovation that has made the Internet what it is today and that will make it even greater tomorrow.”

Comcast has been at the center of net neutrality debate since the company was a subject of an FCC ruling that led to censure for slowing the lines for certain customers engaged in peer-to-peer downloads. Comcast claimed that some users were slowing the lines with excessive downloads of BitTorrent files. The FCC, however, ruled that Comcast had “arbitrarily picked an application and blocked their subscribers’ access to it.”

So far this year Comcast has contributed over $1 million to lawmakers and candidates for Congress. In the previous election cycle, Comcast contributed nearly $3 million.

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  • JAS

    Back to basics, “IT’S THE MONEY STUPID !” Comcast is a successful and voracious,opportunistic monopoly,it’s contributions have bought the worst government money could buy. Who is now the biggest benefactor of gov’t supported digital broadcasting reconfigured channels, COMCAST. I have sympathy for their internet users, but every month COMCAST is allowed to raise their service-tier levels; the results, much higher rates with less service and bad product response.They own the only show in town.

  • Christian M

    Your point seems to be that Brady shouldn’t accept support from companies who work in his district? Good grief. Should voters support people who turn their backs on major employers in their district?

    Also, don’t be naive about the role this sort of reporting plays in policy debates. The intent here is to malign the 72 Democrats who signed this letter you mention and question their motives. I’m not stupid enough to think all these financial contributions don’t influence politicians but you should dig into the other side of the debate as well. Who is the Congressman from Google? Who is the Congressman from Yahoo? Etc..

  • Christian M

    Speaking of transparency, don’t you think you should disclose that Sunlight Foundation is conflicted here? Sunlight’s biggest funder is Pierre Omidyar. Omidyar is the founder of eBay which is how he made his billions. eBay, which is a giant corporation like any other, has a specific financial interest in making sure that net neutrality regulations pass. Sunlight also got a check from Google. Same conflict of interest.

    The conflict suggests that Sunlight is a coin-operated front group. It probably doesn’t feel like that to the people working there–but it does look like that.

    Donors listed here: http://www.sunlightfoundation.com/funding/

    • One thing that should be noted again, which is included in the article above, is that Comcast is based in Philadelphia and employs thousands of people in Brady’s district. Comcast has also been a huge backer of Brady’s campaigns through campaign contributions. Often these interests overlap and play into the positions that lawmakers take (see also: Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota and his stances on credit card companies). While the campaign finance angle may or may not have ultimately influenced Brady’s previous votes or his current position, it certainly is worth noting that of all of the 72 letter signatories, he has taken more contributions from telecoms and their lobbyists than any other.

      This post is intended to highlight the ongoing influence game that occurs in Washington, not to oppose or support a particular policy. The supporters of net neutrality do give some money to Congress, but it isn’t particularly interesting. What’s interesting here is the deviation of normally 100% loyal Democrats deviating from a policy touted by their leadership and by a Democratic president.

  • Mark

    Not that I am pro-lobbyists, but I think we’re assuming a lot here.

    The language here seems to suggest that the Congressman is anti net neutrality only because he gets money from Comcast. What if Comcast gives the Congressman money because he already was Anti Net Neutrality.

    It’s a slight difference, but an important one. One suggests the congressman believes in a position only because his ‘donors’ do (which seems to suggest his votes are for sale).

    The other suggests that Comcast is supporting Congressmen with similar views, meaning he would be anti net neutrality even without Comcast’s money.

    Can you honestly say you know which one it is? It’s an important distinction.

  • Jim

    The entire Philadelphia political machine is funded by Comcast- Specter, Rendell, Brady just happen to get the most from them. Specter has never shown any support for Net Neutrality, either. David Cohen, VP of Comcast, was just called the most powerful person in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Magazine. Brian Roberts was top 15 too.