The communications giant Comcast announced in February that it would buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, creating the largest cable provider in America,with more than 33 million customers. That is about one third of the U.S. cable and satellite television market. FCC approval is required for the merger to go into effect. Critics of the deal say it would lessen competition and lead to even shoddier customer service. They are probably right, as all of us will soon find out, because there is little chance the merger will be stopped. Comcast, Time Warner, and their political fixers have spent years preparing for this moment—by buying off the Democratic Party.
Comcast, which employs more than 100 lobbyists, spent almost $19 million last year on lobbying activities. Its president and CEO, Brian L. Roberts, is a golf buddy of President Obama’s, and a Democratic donor who has contributed thousands of dollars not only to the president’s campaigns, butalso to the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the DNC Services Corporation, and to Steny Hoyer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Bob Casey. Roberts’ executive vice president, David Cohen, is a former aide to Democratic bigwig Ed Rendell. Cohen skirts lobbying regulations through loopholes, has raised more than $2 million for Obama since 2007, and in 2011 hosted a DNC fundraiser at which the president called him “friend.” Cohen has visited the White House 14 times since 2010, including two visits to the Oval Office. He attended the recent dinner for President Hollande of France.
Cohen plays a major role in the Comcast Foundation, which has disbursed more than $3 billion since 2001, primarily to “groups that serve African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians” and other segments of the Democratic coalition. You will be surprised to learn that many of the groups to whom the Comcast Foundation has donated now support the proposed merger. Of the $33 million Comcast has spent on political campaigns since 1989, more than half, or some $18 million, has gone to Democrats. Barack Obama is number one on the list of the top ten recipients of Comcast’s largesse. There are four Republicans on the list.
Comcast’s in-kind contributions to the Democratic Party are more difficult to calculate. In a media environment that already tilts leftward, the NBC networks, which Comcast owns, distinguish themselves as especially pro-Obama. Comcast has one channel, MSNBC, which is almost entirely devoted to furthering the president’s agenda and the broader priorities of the American progressive movement. How do you put a price on the contributions of the invaluable Ed, Al, Chris, Chris, Rachel, and Lawrence? Where would the Democratic Party be today without The Reid Report? They give so much.