Four days before Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., publicly praised AT&T's announced aquisition of T-Mobile USA, AT&T's Political Action Committee (PAC) sent him a contribution for $1,000, adding to $4,000 already donated since the start of the year for his campaign fund.
Those checks were only the latest in a long stream of contributions and other support that the company has sent the congressman, his family, and charities associated with him over the years, amounting to more than $330,000. This pattern of giving shows how a company can use several avenues to cozy up to a lawmaker. And as chair of the Hispanic caucus' taskforce that aims to influence federal telecommunications policy, Baca is a key lawmaker to cultivate.
"I am pleased to learn of the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, and its potential to create more good paying-jobs here at home, expand wireless access, and increase broadband speed for businesses and consumers across the nation," said Baca on March 22, in a statement that does not appear on his official website.
The company has supported the Rialto-based Joe Baca Foundation, giving $10,000 in the congressman's honor since 2008, according to lobbying disclosure reports. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, where the congressman has served as chair of the board of directors, has collected $220,000 in honorary contributions over the same time period. An AT&T executive, Jerry Fuentes, also serves on the Institute's board.
AT&T has also sent contributions totalling $19,900 to his two sons'–Joe Jr. and Jeremy–campaigns for the California state legislature, according to data collected by the National Institute of Money in State Politics, accessed via TransparencyData.com.
Baca also gets support from the Communications Workers of America, which represents certain AT&T workers, and which enthusiastically supports the merger. The union's PAC has contributed $25,750 to his campaign fund, including $5,000 dated March 30, 2011.
Baca has long been an AT&T cheerleader. In March 2009, he took to the House floor to praise the company. "[I]n this time of economic uncertainty, I rise to thank one company who is actively working to create new jobs and practice a clean, environmentally friendly business model, AT&T," he said.
Later that year, he was one of the signers of a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supporting the company's position on net neutrality.
In 2006, he was one of 26 House Democrats who sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission “praising AT&T for its commitment” to win approval for the AT&T – Bellsouth merger, according to Technology Daily.
AT&T is the fourth largest contributor to Baca's campaign fund for his election campaigns, donating $65,000, the great majority coming from the company's PAC, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. AT&T's PAC has also contributed $13,500 to Baca's leadership PAC, the California Aggressive Leadership PAC.
And on the day before the 2008 Democratic national convention, an AT&T lobbyist, Lyndon Boozer, was listed as a host of a fundraiser for Baca at a Denver golf course, a gathering caught by the cameras of Inside Edition. AT&T sponsored a party that night for the blue dog Democrats, which include Baca.
Neither Baca nor AT&T returned requests for comment.