AT&T hands out cash to merger backers

Posted by Starr Keshet

Why, what a surprise! It seems as if AT&T has been handing out wads of cash to groups that "coincidentally" support the corporation's controversial acquisition of T-Mobile.

Yes, the NAACP, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Education Association have all issued public statements supporting the merger in recent weeks.

AT&T hands out cash to merger backersAs expected, all three of the groups solemnly swear their backing for the deal has absolutely nothing to do with AT&T's more than generous financial backing.

Similarly, AT&T insists it routinely infuses nonprofit groups with cash because it's the right thing to do.

"For decades, AT&T has proudly supported numerous diverse groups and organizations," a company spokesperson told Politico.

But Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to government transparency, isn't buying what AT&T is selling.

"The money nonprofits receive from their corporate sponsors sticks not only in their bank accounts but in their minds," Miller explained.

"This is what I think of as deep lobbying - there is an expectation that when push comes to shove, these groups will come out in favor of their benefactors."

Meanwhile, Sherry Lichtenberg, a telecommunications expert at the National Regulatory Research Institute, said that AT&T's strategy may be a "way to try to get Democratic members of the commission particularly." 

According to Lichtenberg, this is a standard way to do things: "Figure out which are the strongest constituencies and go for them."