by Robbie Feinberg at April 19, 2014 04:27 AM
Most of the senators seemed ambivalent about the merger and wouldn't say whether they supported or opposed it, but one senator in particular stuck out from the rest: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
"I don't like this revolving door," Franken said in an April 13 interview with CNN. "I don't like this revolving door between regulators and Comcast. I thought that was kind of tacky that one of the FCC commissioners, I think just four months after they approved the Comcast/NBC deal, went over to work a high-paying job at Comcast. I just don't like that."
So how wide is the revolving door between the telecommunications giant and the FCC? For Comcast's in-house lobbyists, it's significant and still swinging. According to an analysis byOpenSecrets Blog, 18 people have both lobbied for Comcast and spent time in the public sector. Of those, 12 are currently registered lobbyists for Comcast, with five of them having spent time at the FCC.
From FCC chair to Comcast lobbyist
The most prominent example of the Comcast/FCC revolving door is former FCC commissioner and current Comcast lobbyist Meredith Baker.
Baker, whose views tended to side with the industry even before she went to the FCC, was appointed to to her FCC position in July 2009 and stayed there for nearly two years, cutting her four-year term short in June 2011 to move to Comcast as its senior vice president of government affairs.
When she made the move, Baker said she didn't see any problem with moving from a regulatory agency to a company she regulated, explaining in a statement that she had "not participated or voted any item, not just those related to Comcast or NBCUniversal, since entering discussions about an offer of potential employment."
Due to lobbying rules, Baker wasn't allowed to lobby the FCC for the two years following her hire at Comcast, but she has lobbied the House and Senate on a range of issues. In 2013, she lobbied on 21 bills on behalf of Comcast, with much of the legislation dealing with deregulation of the Internet, including bills that would keep online purchases tax-free.
Baker's transition from FCC leadership to industry isn't unprecedented. Michael Powell, the FCC chairman from 1997 to 2005, made a similar move, heading to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, an industry group, in 2011 as its CEO. And Jonathan Adelstein, who was an FCC commissioner from 2002 to 2009, became the president and CEO of PCIA: The Wireless Infrastructure Association in 2012.
Four other former FCC employees have followed Baker's path to Comcast. They include Rudy Brioche, who worked as an advisor to former commissioner Adelstein before moving to Comcast as its senior director of external affairs and public policy counsel in 2009. Brioche was so valued by the FCC, in fact, that he was brought in to join the commission's Advisory Committee for Diversity in the Digital Age in 2011.
Other revolving Comcast lobbyists include James Coltharp, who served as a special counsel to commissioner James H. Quello until 1997, and Jordan Goldstein, who worked as a senior legal adviser to commissioner Michael J. Copps. John Morabito, who served a number of roles in the FCC's Common Carrier Bureau, joined Comcast as one of its senior lobbyists in 2004. (He is no longer with the company.)
Comcast and Congress
But the revolving door doesn't just swing from the FCC to Comcast. Lobbyists also can head back to the public sector. That's been the case with David Krone. Krone has an extensive background with the telecommunications industry, holding leadership and lobbying positions with companies like AT&T, TCI Communications and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
In 2008, Krone worked as Comcast's senior vice president for corporate affairs. But since then, Krone has taken his telecommunications knowledge to the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Krone started as a senior advisor to the senator in 2008 and rose to become Reid's chief of staff in 2011, a position he holds today.
Overall, Comcast has traditionally had a heavy lobbying presence Washington. The company has spent at least $12 million on lobbying every year since 2008, with that number peaking at $19.6 million in 2011. Last year, Comcast spent more than $18.8 million, making it the sixth-highest spender on federal lobbying.