Telecommunications giants Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable, set to defend their planned merger Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, have given a combined $103,000 to 31 of the 39 panel members during the current election cycle.
An analysis of data from Sunlight’s Influence Explorer shows that so far for the 2014 election, Comcast donated $77,500 and Time Warner Cable, $25,500 to members of the House Judiciary Committee.
The two companies are big-time players on the political influence circuit, giving tens of millions of dollars to various politicians and groups and spending even more on lobbying. Before the Senate hearing, Sunlight found that the two companies contributed a combined $42.4 million to different politicians and groups since 1989. In the same time period, the two companies have also spent more than $140 million lobbying Congress, according to Sunlight’s Influence Explorer tool, which compiles data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute for Money in State Politics.
So far this cycle, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, has gotten the most among panel members: $10,000 from Comcast and $4,500 from Time Warner Cable. In 2012, Influence Explorer data show he received a total of $17,500 from both companies.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, comes in a close second this cycle, receiving a combined $11,500 from the corporations – $6,000 from Comcast and $5,500 from Time Warner. But in 2012, when he was the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, he got $10,000 from each company.
The committee’s top Democrat, Michigan Rep. John Conyers Jr., received $1,000 so far this cycle from Time Warner, but nothing from Comcast. This isn’t standard, however; Influence Explorer data show that Comcast Corp has given the longtime congressman $37,000 since 1998.
In the 2011-2012 cycle, the companies gave a combined $186,500 to members of the House Judiciary Committee. Again, Comcast gave more than its counterpart, doling out a total of $139,500 to the committee’s members.
Comcast and Time Warner Cable have also spent a significant amount of money wooing Congress, paying lobbying firms just shy of $7.4 million to work on their behalf in the first three months of 2014. Disclosure reports shows that Comcast spent $5,045,500 lobbying Congress on a laundry list of issues including telecommunications, data security, tax reform and the Time Warner merger.
Almost $3.1 million of that went to Comcast’s in-house lobbyists, but $100,000 went to Holland & Knight LLP to lobby on the Telecommunications Act, the Time Warner merger and tax legislation. (The firm filed two separate forms for the first quarter.)
Comcast also paid PutalaStrategies $100,000 to lobby on telecommunications legislation, patent reform, antitrust issues and the proposed merger. That firm’s disclosure report shows that Christopher Putala, the company’s founder, was the only lobbyist who went to Capitol Hill on behalf of Comcast. Putala has been a lobbyist since the late ’90s, but before that, he worked for then Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., as his aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Comcast had its hearing last month.
Comcast paid three other firms – Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, Forbes-Tate and the Duberstein Group – $90,000 each to lobby on the Time Warner merger, taxes and general telecommunications issues. Because of the way disclosure forms are filled out, it is impossible to know exactly how much money is spent on each specific issue.
Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, spent $2,350,000 in the first quarter of the year lobbying on a number of topics including telecommunications issues, taxes, data privacy and the proposed merger. Like Comcast, Time Warner spent the majority of that sum – almost $2 million – on its in-house lobbyists.
The company doled out $50,000 to Twenty-First Century Group Inc. to lobby on the cable television industry, taxes and the Comcast deal. And the Downey McGrath Group got another $40,000 to lobby on the merger, rural broadband Internet access and tax reform.
Today’s hearing comes one month after a spirited Senate meeting on the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. The House panel convenes at 9:30 a.m.
Bob Lannon contributed to this report.