Politicians’ Letters In Support Of Comcast Merger Were Actually Written By Comcast

In the eleven months since Comcast announced that it would acquire Time Warner Cable, numerous local and national politicians have written to the FCC in support of the merger, claiming it will create jobs (in spite of the fact that thousands of employees will inevitably be made redundant), spark investment (even though Comcast could just invest the $40 billion instead of using it to buy TWC), and provide broadband access for the poor (a program that’s been criticized as window dressing), without hurting competition (because there isn’t any to begin with). Many of the letters hit the same points… almost as if they were ghostwritten and the politicians just signed their names to them.

That’s because, at least in some cases, the person whose name is signed to one of these letters had little to nothing to do with its authorship.

A new report from The Verge uncovers Comcast’s efforts to astroturf its mega-merger by feeding local politicians what were effectively form letters that could be signed and sent off to the FCC to make it look like there was bona fide grassroots support for the TWC acquisition.

Like the letter supposedly written by Mayor Jere Wood of Roswell, GA, but actually penned by a vice president of external affairs at Comcast.

E-mails obtained by The Verge show that the mayor’s only contribution to the letter was a single sentence at the end and his signature.

Another letter from a town councilman in Jupiter, FL, was not only first sent to Comcast for approval, but was then tweaked by a former FCC official whose telecom law firm has been hired by Comcast to help usher the merger through the approval process.

The Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown only tweaked three sentences to the Comcast-ghostwritten letter she sent off to the FCC.

Former FCC Chairman Michael Copps says that letters from local leaders get special attention when they reach D.C.

“When a mayor of a town or a town councilman or a legislator writes in — we look at that, and if someone is of a mind already to approve something like this they might say: ‘ah-ha, see!’” he explains to The Verge. “These letters can be consequential, there’s no question about that.”

In its defense, Comcast claims that the ghostwritten letters were merely suggestions for what could be written and the politicians who sent the letters ultimately decided what they would tell the FCC.

“We reached out to policy makers, community leaders, business groups and others across the country to detail the public interest benefits of our transaction with Time Warner Cable,” a rep for the company explains. “When such leaders indicate they’d like to support our transaction in public filings, we’ve provided them with information on the transaction. All filings are ultimately decided upon by the filers, not Comcast.”

Comcast has been successful in rounding up political figures in support of its merger battle. In August, more than 50 mayors signed on to a single letter urging the FCC to approve the deal. In December, the two U.S. Senators from Pennsylvania signed a joint letter asking the FCC to expedite its approval process, without mentioning that they had received a combined $184,000 in donations from Comcast sources.

There’s no proof that either of these two letters were ghostwritten by Comcast, though they do highlight how out of touch these elected officials are from their constituents. Comcast and Time Warner Cable have repeatedly been at the bottom of several major customer satisfaction surveys, which are the voices of actual consumers who didn’t receive campaign contributions in exchange for their opinions.

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