Did Comcast Ghostwrite Politicians’ Letters of Support?
A report at The Verge’s website today suggests Comcast has been ghostwriting letters of support that politicians have filed to back the company’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
On August 21st, 2014, Mayor Jere Wood of Roswell, Georgia, sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission expressing emphatic support for Comcast’s controversial effort to merge with Time Warner Cable. Not only did the mayor’s letter express personal excitement for the gargantuan deal — which critics say will create a monopoly that will harm millions of consumers — but it also claimed that the entire town of Roswell adored Comcast. “When Comcast makes a promise to act, it is comforting to know that they will always follow through,” Wood’s letter explained. “This is the type of attitude that makes Roswell proud to be involved with such a company,” the letter asserts, “our residents are happy with the services it has provided and continues to provide each day.”
Yet Wood’s letter made one key omission: Neither Wood nor anyone representing Roswell’s residents wrote his letter to the FCC. Instead, a vice president of external affairs at Comcast authored the missive word for word in Mayor Wood’s voice. According to email correspondence obtained through a public records request, the Republican mayor’s office apparently added one sign-off sentence and his signature to the corporate PR document, then sent it to federal regulators on the official letterhead of Roswell, Georgia.
The report goes on to cite a number of instances where officials — including then-Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett — submitted letters of support for the merger, letters that barely differed in wording from information provided by Comcast.
Comcast suggested the similarities were not the result of any subversive act to create a false appearance of support for the merger. Politicians who support Comcast just didn’t bother to try to write very originally about their support.
In response to a list of questions from The Verge, Comcast emphasized that it did not have final say in the substance of the letters. “We reached out to policy makers, community leaders, business groups and others across the country to detail the public interest benefits of our transaction with Time Warner Cable,” Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokesperson, said in an email. “When such leaders indicate they’d like to support our transaction in public filings, we’ve provided them with information on the transaction. All filings are ultimately decided upon by the filers, not Comcast.”
Indeed, it’s entirely possible that the politicians mentioned are genuinely supportive of the merger — although many of them benefit from Comcast campaign contributions — and genuinely lazy writers. There’s not much grass-roots support for the merger, as we’ve noted, but we have no problem believing that lots of establishment-type folks would be happy to see it go through.
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