Kudos to EvenKat from the Message Pit for doing a little background research into AT&T and where their money goes:
2006 ELECTION OVERVIEWTop Overall DonorsRank Contributor Total Contributions To Dems To Repubs Contributions Tilt
14 AT&T Inc $2,676,447 34% 66% Leans Republican
GEORGE W. BUSH (R) Top Contributors Cycle: 2004
Morgan Stanley $600,480
Merrill Lynch $580,004
Pricewaterhouse Coopers $513,750
UBS Americas $472,075
Goldman Sachs $390,600
MBNA Corp $356,350
Credit Suisse Group $331,040
Lehman Brothers $329,725
Citigroup Inc $320,620
Bear Stearns $309,150
Ernst & Young $305,140
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu $290,450
US Government $287,636
Wachovia Corp $275,310
Ameriquest Capital $250,650
Blank Rome LLP $223,900
Bank of America $218,261
AT&T Inc $212,920
The $47 Million Retiree Sellout: How White House/GOP donors bought a Medicare bill that lets them cut health benefits.
May 14, 2004On Oct. 29, 2003, President Bush reassured seniors that "corporations have no intention to what they call dump retirees" from their existing drug coverage after the Medicare bill passed. But according to the Wall Street Journal, the White House and its allies in Congress added "a little-noticed provision" to the law which rewards companies with a tax subsidy even if they reduce retirees' existing drug coverage. In effect, the provision creates a financial incentive to reduce retiree benefits.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the provision was pushed primarily by a group called the "Employers' Coalition on Medicare" – an organization made up of corporations that have given President Bush and the RNC more than $47 million since 2000. These same corporations stand to profit from the provision. And it appears at least 10 of them (representing tens of thousands of workers) have either tried in the past or are trying to slash retiree benefits. These 10 companies, which include 3M, AT&T, Bank of America, DaimlerChrysler, GM, IBM, and Verizon, have alone given more than $17 million. Here is the breakdown of the contributions given to President Bush and his allies in Congress by all of the members of the "Employers Coalition" – contributions that no doubt helped buy this provision. For the official list of members of the "Coalition" please see their Web site at http://www.employersandmedicare.org/.
$17 Million From Companies Actively Cutting Retiree Benefits. These 10 companies, which are members of the "Employers Coalition on Medicare," have tried to seriously reduce health/drug benefits for their retirees. And because of their campaign contributions to the White House/Congress, the new Medicare bill insures they will now receive tax subsidies even as they continue to reduce those benefits.
Verizon Total Contributions: $3,882,181
Hard money contributions to Bush since 2000: $65,900
Soft money contributions to RNC since 2000: $2,100,923
PAC money to Republicans since 2000: $1,715,358
Verizon Reducing Employee/Retiree Health Benefits: "Verizon Communications stated it expects its obligation for post-retirement benefits to fall by $1.3 billion as a result of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit…. Verizon is relieved of liability for promises to pay benefits for retirees now that liability shifts to the federal government and the taxpayers. A corporation improves its bottom line, but at the expense of the taxpayer and to the detriment of retirees." [Source: Allentown Morning Call, 3/24/04]3M Total Contributions: $347,305Hard money contributions to Bush since 2000: $9,250Soft money contributions to RNC since 2000: $165,305PAC money contributions to Republicans since 2000: $172,7503M Reducing Employee/Retiree Health Benefits: According to the Austin Business Journal, Austin's 3M is now requiring employees and retirees to "shoulder more of the burden" for health care/drug benefits with its public relations manager admitting "we're asking them to pay more." [Source: Austin Business Journal, 11/29/02] AT&T Total Contributions: $4,660,815
Hard money contributions to Bush since 2000: N/A
Soft money contributions to RNC since 2000: $4,141,772
PAC money contributions to Republicans since 2000: $519,043
Does AT&T owe Bush and the RNC?
May 10, 2002 When the nation's No. 1 cable company, AT&T Broadband, gets swallowed up by No. 3 Comcast sometime next year, the merger will spawn a mammoth new company that will reach 50 percent of the country's cable households. Yet Congress remains unfazed by the company's new size. At a Senate subcommittee hearing in April, members rapidly dismissed any potential antitrust concerns surrounding the merger."Overall, this merger by itself does not appear to present the types of competitive concerns that have led me to be skeptical or critical of some other recent media mergers," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), adding that, unlike the proposed EchoStar/DirecTV merger, this deal would not eliminate a direct competitor.
But consumer advocates warn that there are plenty of things to worry about if the AT&T/Comcast merger goes through as planned.
Since Congress passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act that deregulated the cable industry, consumers have seen their cable rates increase by 43 percent. "That's three times the rate of inflation," says David Butler, a spokesman for Consumers Union, a public interest group. "It's been six years since deregulation, and the cable industry has merged to a point where there are only a handful of companies left. This merger would combine two of the biggest industry players and would give them greater power to keep raising prices, limit choices in programming and ignore customer service issues."
Comcast and AT&T insist that the deal will offer consumers, especially those who live in rural areas, greater access to broadband services, including high-speed Internet connections and digital cable. With broadband access a hot topic on Capitol Hill these days, industry insiders joke that you can get almost anything you want in Washington—as long as you say it promotes broadband. Comcast and AT&T will likely have no problem getting the merger approved by federal regulators, especially since no member of Congress has come forward to strongly oppose the deal.
One reason Congress is silent on the issue may have to do with campaign contributions. AT&T (the parent company of AT&T Broadband) has contributed more than $1.5 million in individual, PAC and soft money donations so far in the 2002 election cycle, 53 percent to Republicans. During the 2000 election cycle, AT&T was the country's top corporate contributor, donating $5.9 million to federal candidates and parties, including $47,400 to George Bush for his presidential run. The company supplied another $1 million to the GOP for the Republican national convention in Philadelphia, where Bush won his party's nomination. Comcast, which also gave $1 million to the Republican National Convention, contributed $40,750 to the Bush campaign. So far in the 2002 election cycle, Comcast has contributed more than $200,000 in individual, PAC and soft money contributions, 67 percent to the GOP.
But Comcast and AT&T are not the only corporate donors who want the merger approved. Microsoft invested $5 billion in AT&T in 1999. When Comcast entered into talks to acquire AT&T's broadband division, it made Microsoft a deal. Rather than having to pay Microsoft when the merger went though, Comcast would convert the computer giant's $5 billion investment into 115 million shares of the new company's stock.
Comcast also promised to give Microsoft an edge over other Internet service providers. According to Comcast's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, "if AT&T Comcast offers a high-speed Internet access agreement to any third party, then it will be obligated to offer an agreement…to Microsoft."
Like AT&T, Microsoft is a top campaign contributor. The company has contributed $1.8 million in individual, PAC and soft money donations in the current election cycle so far, 57 percent to Republicans. Microsoft also spent $6.5 million in lobbying last year, at least part of which was used to lobby on broadband issues. During the 2000 elections, Microsoft contributed $4.7 million to federal candidates and parties, including $61,250 to Bush. Microsoft also chipped in another $1 million to help sponsor the Republican national convention. (Both AT&T and Microsoft also gave $1 million each to the Democrats for their convention in Los Angeles.)
A third set of campaign contributors closely watching the AT&T/Comcast merger are the so-called Baby Bells. The four regional phone companies—BellSouth, Verizon, SBC Communications and Qwest—have come out more or less opposed to the merger. But rather than aggressively combating the deal, the companies are apparently hoping the merger will force Congress to lift regulations that apply to the Baby Bells, but not to the cable industry. After the Comcast/AT&T merger was announced, SBC Communications issued a statement asking Congress for "rules that all competitors can play by in the broadband market." Congress currently requires that the Baby Bells lease part of their high-speed networks to rival Internet service providers if they want to offer broadband services. (Legislation recently passed by the House would remove that restriction.) The Baby Bells have contributed more than $5.4 million combined in individual, PAC and soft money donations during 2001-2002. The companies have also spent a combined $21.3 million on lobbying in 2001.Some critics of the AT&T/Comcast merger say there may be another reason why no one on Capitol Hill is voicing any opposition to the deal. Once the merger is complete, the new cable giant will control programming for an estimated 25 million Americans. "Comcast has local control [over programming]," says Jeffrey Chester, head of the Center for Digital Democracy. "They give access to politicians. This is a silent campaign contribution that keeps on giving." Chester argues that one reason the Bush administration has ignored the concerns of consumer advocates is because "it doesn't hurt having the largest cable company in the country recognizing its debt to the administration for approving the merger." The Bush administration tried to grease the wheels of media mergers earlier this year when it transferred oversight duties from the Federal Trade Commission to the Justice Department.
Consumer groups immediately protested, saying the Justice Department would be too lenient compared to the FTC, which last year okayed the AOL/Time Warner merger, but only after imposing several restrictions on the deal. Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee, has threatened to strip the FTC of funding if the agency gives up its oversight role to the Justice Department. The AT&T/Comcast merger is currently undergoing review at the Federal Communications Commission, but consumer advocates don't hold out much hope that the FCC will prevent the merger or even impose restrictions. The FCC is chaired by Michael Powell, the son of Bush's Secretary of State, Colin Powell. And earlier in the year, the FCC changed its classification of cable high-speed Internet services from a "telecommunications service" to an "information service." The switch helps the cable industry escape further regulation under the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
This all goes to show the close ties that exist between AT&T and Bu$h and the Republicans, furthering suspicions that AT&T's censorship of Ed's anti-Bu$h was no accident, but rather a deliberate move by the company to protect itself and its relationship with Bu$h. Have your say in our new poll.