What Does $18.8 Million a Year Buy in DC?

Written by PTC | Published March 31, 2014

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a terrific story this morning that offers some details into the Washington, DC lobbying machine that is the Comcast Corporation. With the gigantic merger between Comcast and Time Warner cable now pending, it’s easy to understand why the company is this active in lobbying: it wants to ensure its market dominance for years to come. What is surprising, even to seasoned observers, are some of the other issues Comcast concerns itself with that aren’t directly related to telecommunications policy, like these:
It lobbied on the assault-weapons ban and on the farm bill, which determines agriculture policy (think: crop insurance, sugar subsidies, and policies on poultry and beets) and food aid for the poor. The array of bills shows just how much of American life is touched by a cable and Internet giant that now also owns TV networks (NBC and Telemundo), a movie studio (Universal), theme parks, and sports channels.
But here’s where things get really concerning for parents and families:
Comcast's financial might - it spent $18.8 million on lobbying in 2013, seventh most among all entities, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics - enabled it to weigh in on debates as big as corporate-tax reform and as small as Nadler's quixotic charge against tax write-offs for marketing Cialis, Celebrex, and other drugs. So when the White House and Democratic lawmakers talked about studying media violence as part of their plans on gun control, Comcast dispatched lobbyists, including one with ties to Vice President Biden, to register their concerns.
You remember that meeting with the Vice President, I’m sure. At the time, I said the industry was “getting off light.” And it has. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for free markets and free speech. If Comcast wants to spend this level of resources attempting to influence federal policy (this article doesn’t mention any of the state-level lobbying that Comcast does), then it’s certainly free to do so. The question going forward is how much market and lobby power should be vested in a single company, and what is the end result of all that power for parents and families?

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