So you’re planning a merger. Here in the Beltway that translates to some big money, as companies scramble to build up their lobbying force to ensure Capitol Hill can’t scoff at the empire they are trying to build. With AT&T’s recent merger announcement with DirecTV, and Comcast’s mega-merger with Time Warner Cable, K Street is bringing in some big bucks.
AT&T has been preparing their forces in Washington for a while now, spending $15.9 million on lobbying in 2013, and having the 11th highest lobbying expenditures of any company. The company is on track to top this record, spending $3,670,000 so far in 2014. Filing reports from AT&T show that they have pretty much every big firm on retainer to lobby on general telecommunications issues including Akin Gump, Mayer Brown, Wiley Rein and Patton Boggs.
These lobbyists certainly have their work cut out for them, as already AT&T’s $49 million acquirement of DirecTV is raising some eyebrows among consumer advocates. The deal means that the telecommunications behemoth will gain DirecTV’s 20 million American users, and be able to offer the internet, phone and TV packages that have made rival Comcast so successful.
Meanwhile, Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is currently undergoing federal review. If the deal goes through Comcast would control 30 to 40 percent of the internet and television market. In an effort to grease the skids on Capitol Hill for this deal Comcast has been spending so much on lobbying they might as well single handedly be providing a stimulus package to K Street.
As of the beginning of the month Comcast had hired the services of 76 lobbyists across 24 firms in Washington. Most of these lobbyists have close ties to key lawmakers and congressional committees that will be involved in evaluating the legality of the merger, as well as boasting personal successes working on anti-trust suits for companies like Google. Comcast spent $18.7 million on lobbying last year, the sixth highest expenditure for any company, and has spent $3,200,000 so far in 2014.
It will be interesting in the coming months to see if AT&T and Comcast get their money’s worth on K Street by seeing their mergers successfully go through. I’m betting safe on this one – put your money on K Street and you’ll rarely lose.