Obama bundler Tom Wheeler helps his former industry from FCC perch


When Tom Wheeler was appointed the 31st Commissioner  of the FCC, some media policy watchdogs were skeptical that the former telecommunications executive and Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association lobbyist would be willing to “stand up to industry giants and protect the public interest,” when faced with important rule making decisions on net neutrality, media mergers and broadband competition. Now, with news that the agency plans to allow Internet service providers to charge higher rates for Internet “fast lanes,” it appears that at least some of those fears have been vindicated.

Deemed the “Bo Jackson” of the communications world by President Obama, Wheeler had played nearly every position in the telecom industry by the time he was nominated to Chair the agency. In addition to presiding over the CTIA and, before that, the National Cable Television Association, Wheeler was a managing director at a venture capital firm and a co-founder of SmartBrief according to his agency bio. But, beyond his experience on the front lines of the communications industry, Wheeler had ingratiated himself with the administration in another key way: bundling campaign cash for Obama.

Thanks to lists of bundlers voluntarily disclosed by the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns (available on OpenSecrets.org), we know that Wheeler raised between $200,000 and $500,000 in the 2008 cycle, and at least half a million dollars for the President’s reelection campaign. Wheeler personally gave $28,500 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2008. In Feb. 2012, he hosted a high-priced fundraiser for the president, where attendees to Washington’s Mayflower hotel forked over between $5,000 to $20,300 to eat lunch and snap pictures with the First Lady.

Unfortunately, as there is no law on the books mandating bundling disclosure, it’s not clear what sources Wheeler tapped to pull together the rest of this cash.

Major broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon also contributed large sums to Obama’s campaign coffers. Influence Explorer reveals that the political committees and employees of the two Internet giants have contributed at least $530,000 and $450,000 respectively.

Jenn Topper contributing.