(Updated) Top Obama antitrust officials tied to Time-Warner-merger-seeking Comcast

The Republic Report is back. The hard-hitting corruption reporters we’ve featured here before (for example, here and here) have uncovered another set of interesting connections, this time involving the proposed merger between cable giants Comcast and Time Warner and some of the Obama administration officials involved in its approval.

Lee Fang writes:

The news that cable and news giant Comcast has struck a deal to purchase Time Warner, another large cable business, has raised concerns over market concentration. Observers note that the combined company, even if it divests some holdings, would create monopoly-like conditions for the industry.

Dinosaurs eating dinosaurs, while the small animals watch. Normally this kind of market concentration — as if that market wasn’t already too concentrated — needs to be greased with money and lots of it. Mostly the money comes after the fact. For example:

Corruption via Shutterstock

Corruption via Shutterstock

Many are predicting a lobbying blitz by both companies to pressure governments officials to accept the deal. When Comcast purchased NBC Universal, lobbyists were hired to ensure the merger went through. Critics charge that the payments went beyond the traditional influence industry: after signing off on the Comcast-NBC deal, FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker was hired by Comcast for an undisclosed amount.

We wrote about the hiring of Ms. Baker by NBC after signing off on the Comcast-NBC merger here, along with a similar sweet deal for former FCC Commissioner Michael Powell. We also noted that:

Commissioner Baker is a Republican and married to the son of James Baker (yep, the daughter-in-law). And of course, Michael Powell is Colin Powell’s son.

So Commissioner Baker approved the Comcast deal, then went to Comcast for unspecified cash and prizes. Powell did many good deeds (for the industry), then became head of the industry lobbying association for a seven-figure salary.

But that was then. Who will line up to qualify for the big money now? If nothing else, these mergers make nice opportunities. Since they don’t take their bribes (sorry, rewards for public service) upfront, we won’t know who was bought (sorry, voluntarily kissed with cash) until afterward. But we can look at candidates. Lee Fang has found two.

Since this is an antitrust question, the Antitrust Division of the Justice Dept. will be involved in approval. The Federal Trade Commission has enforcement oversight as well. Names to watch, according to Mr. Fang, are these (emphasis mine):

The recently installed head of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, William Baer, was a lawyer representing GE and NBC in their push for the merger with Comcast. …

And:

Maureen Ohlhausen, one of four commissioners on the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees antitrust enforcement, provided legal counsel for Comcast as an attorney just before joining the FTC. …

Talk about Comcast stacking the deck. There’s more on each of these public servants in the Republic Report article, with similar and interesting surprises about both. Please do check it out.

Welcome back, Republic Report. We look forward to more. If you like corruption news, it’s a good site to put into regular rotation.

UPDATE: The RR article now includes information about FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright as well. Stay tuned. I’m willing to bet there’s more here. After all, there are only so many industry entities left in the world for FCC commissioners to have ties to.

GP

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • iakovos
  • cole3244

    i prefer impeachment to execution that would be stooping to the level of the right.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Gore was and is a tool of the rich and a Clinton political clone The rich are polluting the world and endangering us all.

  • Bill_Perdue

    What happened was that Congress reacted to the overwhelming might of the antiwar movement and passed some placating laws, which are now ignored. They were then and are now tools of the super rich.

    Political democracy is not real, in any sense, without democracy on the job and popular control and ownership of the commanding heights of the economy.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Rotten little Democrats and Republicans grow up to be rotten big Democrats and Republicans.

    Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate before moving on to the US Senate where he supported FISA and renewal of the Paytriot Act. Then he graduated to the WH, began busting unions, gave trillions to the rich, tortured and persecuted Chelsea Manning, promoted NDAA and began ordering the patently racist and totally illegal murders of Arab and muslim American citizens.

    Nixon began in the House, became a McCarthyite leader, was picked as VP, got the WH, began murdering Black Panthers, organized the murder of who knows how many GIs and Vietnamese civilians and sent his goon squad to the Watergate Hotel.

    Obama is to the right of Nixon’s historical political program.

  • Nathanael

    We got democracy back for a while in the mid-1960s, but it was removed completely in 2000.

  • Nathanael

    Gore won the election in 2000 and the Presidency was stolen by 5 criminals on the US Supreme Court.

    Every one of those five treasonous criminals deserves to be executed.

  • Nathanael

    No. Gore had extremely different policies on the environment. And this MATTERS. In fact in the long term it matters more than anything else.

    The election in 2000 featured two candidates who were very, very, very different. Unlike the election in 2008. (Sigh.) A lot of Democrats appear to be Republicans — Gore was actually different.

    I’m not going to say Gore wasn’t a supporter of the rich. But he was opposed to STUPIDITY. Gore wanted to keep us all alive.

    We have a lot of candidates who support STUPIDITY and long-term self-destruction. Gore was different.

  • Nathanael

    Oh, I vote for Democrats at many local elections, where they’re fine. I don’t vote for candidates like Obama, obviously — I can’t really tell him apart from GW Bush by his policies.

    Most people can’t make that level of distinction between candidates, sadly.

  • Nathanael

    The biggest problem is “socialist” or “left-wing” parties who go along with right-wing economic doctrines. Then everyone blames the left-wingers for the economic disaster. *THIS IS PART OF HOW HITLER CAME TO POWER*. The Social Democratic Party pursued hard-money austerity policies and discredited itself. With the Communists being suppressed violently, people turned to the fascist parties…

    The only way out of the trap is to reject and attack any left-wing party leader who tries to promulgate right-wing economic doctrines. Immediately. They must be given *no* quarter.

  • Nathanael

    Don’t insult prostitutes. I respect them a lot more than I respect corrupt politicians.

  • kandy830

    my Aunty Julia got silver Volkswagen Beetle
    Convertible by working parttime off of a home computer… Look At This
    G­a­i­n­s­p­o­s­t­.­ℂ­o­m

  • GregoryC

    Revolving door between Treasury and Wall Street banks; USDA/FDA and Monsanto, Archer Daniel Midland, Cargill, DOW Chemical; FCC and media conglomerates (which neo-liberal Bill Clinton deregulated); HHS/PPACA and WellPoint, big PhARMA; Pentagon and defense contractors. Washington is a cesspool of corporate insiders.

  • GregoryC

    The more effective evil silencing the left, African Americans

  • NoBebop

    Unless it’s written into law, that program you mention could go away at the drop of a hat. Comcast only would have to orchestrate a couple quarters of losses (done by jerking a few numbers around in Excel, not by actually losing money) and that program would be cut back in a heartbeat. And what would the government do — give NBC/Universal back to GE? Not bloody likely. Also, envying poor people for getting an occasional break based on their poverty is unbecoming.

  • lynchie

    I will believe when they pay the same rate of income tax I do.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I’ll believe corporations are people when the state of Texas executes one.

  • cambridgemac

    Didn’t know about the PP – Opus Dei connection. Thanks.

  • lynchie

    Hey, the Supreme Court of Fools says “they are people too.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    This happens all the time. Only rarely is it this blatant so that it makes the news. We have a revolving door in our government for people to go back and forth between businesses and the agencies that regulate them. The conflicts of interest are so common it would be easier to make a list of people who work in the agencies who do NOT have a conflict of interest, if such a person even exists. We need massive reform, but I don’t see it happening since these companies are also the ones who finance our election system.

  • Jack

    Our broadband speeds and pricing are some of the worst on the planet. We should be breaking these companies up, not allowing them to merge.

    The administration has a soft spot for comcast now because – as a condition of their purchase of NBC/Universal, they created a new ‘private’ welfare program paid for by customers of Comcast and most of them aren’t even aware of it. It’s called Comcast Internet Essentials – a free computer and high speed internet for families eligible for food assistance from the government at a cost of $9.95 per month. Suckers like you pay $ 60 for the same service and you will be subsidizing them forever – their cost is guaranteed never to go up. How nice for them.

  • perljammer

    Well, to be fair — he promised to change the way business gets done in Washington, not the way Washington gets done by business.

  • cole3244

    wait a minute is this the way you end the conversation, this coincides with your perception of right, left, and middle, very confusing.

  • Bill_Perdue

    This happens every once in a while. Democrats pretend that they’re not right wing and that their candidates are not uniformly right wing. (Right wing is not running on a program to end capitalism and establish a workers state.) When they lose the argument, and they always do, they get personal and they lose again.

  • cole3244

    i will tabulate your opinion as one that presumes gore would have been no better than gwb 43 but i would have taken my chances, since you and your partner choose to think 2000 had no adverse affect on our domestic or foreign policy we will just have to disagree.
    i am suspicious and pessimistic but you two take the cake.

  • cole3244

    i am being political you are not be reasonable, but not taking your meds will do that to you so i understand.

    i feel your pain i really do.

  • lynchie

    I haven’t donated money in years and refuse to pony up to fill the coffers of politicians who are owned by the 1%.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Only in that delusion called “Bill’s world” are my statements seen as ‘right wing.’

  • nicho

    The main reason for this is that politicians need cash — barrels of cash — to run for, and win, office. In fact, they spend most of their time now whoring themselves out to corporations — and now secret billionaire cabals – to get the cash. The few pennies we diligently send them from our declining incomes is just pocket change. They need millions and even billions. That alone creates horrendous conflicts of interests. The problem is the system. The problem is that our political system floats on a sea of cash. Until we get money out of the equation, nothing will change.

  • nicho

    One of the problems in this type of discussion is that it’s a fallacy to say what any non-elected politician would or would not have done once in office. You just don’t know. You certainly can’t base it on what they say on the campaign trail (for a example, see Obama). And you can’t even base it on past performance. So, you can’t say Gore would have done X if he were in office. Every president has to act within the possibilities that are presented to him. Had Gore been in office and had someone in the shadow government wanted him to invade, or bomb the crap out of, Lichtenstein, Gore would have been presented with incontrovertible “proof” of something that would have left him with no choice but to invade Lichtenstein.

  • Bill_Perdue

    When you make right wing comments I’ll reply.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    PP doesn’t have popular support to outlaw same-sex marriage and Rajoy said that the issue is dead.

    I believe that the stupid austerity measures are a thing of the past.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    I agree that we need to work to get money out of politics. And on parallel tracks, using precision activism, each with it’s own objective, work on other issues as well.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Well, I don’t answer to you. And ACA was a genius move by Obama, which isn’t to say that it is good.

  • nicho

    Until we get money out of politics, nothing will change. Even a “people’s candidate” will have to whore him/herself out to the corporations to get the billion dollars they need to run for office. If they don’t, they will be neutralized — with extreme prejudice if necessary.

    For an instructive example, just look to Howard Dean. In December of 2003 he was acknowledged by everyone to the the “unbeatable front runner.” Then, he poked a stick in the eye of the corporatocracy by saying he would do something about media concentration. The corporate media struck back with an unprecedented fury. For three weeks, all we saw — from any media outlet to the right of the Socialist Worker — was “Howard Dean is unelectable.” We saw it from Time, Newsweek, USA Today, NY Times, LA Times, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, MSNBC, CNN, Washington Post, and so on. Over and over and over and over. Three weeks later, people were telling pollsters that Howard Dean was unelectable.

  • Bill_Perdue

    I have no obsessions but you are wrong most of the time. If you can’t stand the heat don’t vote for Democrats or describe Obama’s ACA as genius.

  • Bill_Perdue

    End of conversion. If you can’t be political then you’re not worth talking to.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Your obsession with me is creepy. Why are you compelled to respond to my posts?

  • Bill_Perdue

    The US was a severely limited democracy until shortly after the Civil War. It has not been a democracy since 1877 and the Great Betrayal. http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h396.html

  • cole3244

    the bp meds are in the medicine cabinet in case you have forgotten.

  • nicho

    And the PP would outlaw same-sex marriage, except they’re prevented from doing that right now by law. But once they’re able – watch out.

    One problem for Spain — as in so many other countries – is that they’re going to face crippling austerity no matter who is in power. (This isn’t to say that the PP is made up of Francoists who went underground during the days of “democracy” and who are gleefully destroying the middle class.) The PSOE has no financial maneuvers at their disposal. This was the goal of the bankers who crafted the euro. They thought that workers had too much power, wages were (in their estimation) too high, and social programs were denying the 0.01 percent of their money.

    The euro, as a centralized currency and not a sovereign, is not controlled by Spanish (or Irish, or Greek, or …) politicians. Any government has to go hat in hand to Brussels. They can’t enact monetary policy to combat the “crisis.” So, the 0.01 percenters are directing the austerity.

    While it’s true that the euro makes it easier to go from country to country — that was just the cover story for the destruction of the working class.

  • Bill_Perdue

    They don’t work for us – ever. They work for the rich. Pretending otherwise is enabling their crimes.

  • 2karmanot

    Great idea!

  • caphillprof

    Only Republicans deny that Obama is extreme right wing (also lazy and apparently afraid of his own shadow, but I digress).

  • caphillprof

    These conflicts of interest are all over Washington, and most pay handsomely. Some of the biggest conflicts are the spouses, boyfriends and mistresses who reap the money bonanza on behalf of their political partner (he keeps his hands “clean” but not his d*ck). This is true of reporters and pundits as well as politicians.

    As for antitrust, we haven’t had antitrust enforcement in this country since at least Reagan if not before.

    Our government is one big protection racket.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Democrats and Republicans are both right wing parties, and voting for one the same as voting for another. Gore is a right winger.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Leftists don’t vote for Democrats, and the highly esteemed author is wrong. http://links.org.au/taxonomy/term/571

  • cole3244

    gore was to the left of gwb 43 and that is all that mattered in 2000 of course some voted for nader to make a point and they sure did.

    the electorate do deserve some share of the blame because there is enough info out there to get informed and make an intelligent decision but the nfl or american idol are more important to the majority who start the ball rolling by electing these rw at the local level in most instances.

    our electorate are lazy and most choose not to participate in off year cycles but take away the franchise and they would be the first to scream and yell about their rights being violated.

    we used to be a democracy and the electorate is one of the reasons we are not one now among many others.

  • therling

    I see it as more of an oligopoly rather than a monopoly. There are just enough different companies in the market to furnish the flimsiest illusion of choice, but that choice is very limited, and the barriers to entry for any competition are so high that your choice is essentially “brick or club?”

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    They are all prostitutes. Until we get a reasonable, people’s candidate, we have to make them work for us.

    I’m reminded that Obama had to be forced to act on LGBT issues by activists.

    What is needed is single-issue, precision activism with an achievable objective.

  • lynchie

    I prefer to say America promotes “an illusion of democracy”.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Yes, the highly-esteemed, anti-war, leftist, Spanish author is lying because Bill says so.

    And the question is about not voting for Democrats or Republicans, which, for many, means not voting at all for POTUS, which parallels what happened in Spain and they are suffering for it now.

  • lynchie

    I wonder how this will turn out? Not. I recently started a twice a week coffee club at the local YMCA. Many of us are concerned about the spying and phone tapping and decided to turn the clock back in terms of how we interact and share thoughts. This merger will no doubt lessen competition and IMHO allow increases in access along with the censoring of the Internet. Look to your local Y for a meeting room or space where folks can get together and discuss common concerns. So far we have avoided any TP members but we have GOP, Independent and Progressive who are prepared to talk about issues without the talking points. We are early days but I am happy about the interaction. Don’t get me wrong there are many blogs I visit and participate in but being an old fart, I love face to face interaction without the delays. I have never joined Facebook, don’t Tweet, message a little, an email even less. Anyone else share some of my paranoia.

  • Tatts

    “…the combined company, even if it divests some holdings, would create monopoly-like conditions for the industry.”

    The industry is built upon “monopoly-like conditions”. They are a monopoly in every area they serve–on the local level–and all with the direct approval of local governments and tacit approval of the national regulators. They carved out their coverage areas, and, with the exception of the now-stalled Verizon FiOS rollout, they have no competition for any home or business they run their wires past.

    They are a monopoly in practice, but want to be governed by free-market rules.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Read the link.

    Any attempt to describe working people in Spain as docile is wildly untrue.

    Here are a dozen links that put the lie to your claims about docility.

    The question is not about Spain but about voting for Democrats and Republicans and trying to scare people into voting for frauds like like Obama or Hillary Clinton by pretending that Republicans are fascists.

    Because Palin! is bs.

  • ronbo

    Just another brick in the wall proving that the difference between Dem and Repub POLITICIANS is marketing. Dembot and Obots are merely living on hope that their views will be upheld by a proven-corrupt class (politicians). How many examples will it take for them to abandon their illusion?

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Working people in Spain may be thinking left, but sadly, they are docile or otherwise inactive. And they are up against PP, a front group for the well-funded Opus Dei.

    See this commentary from one of Spain’s great authors, Almudena Grandes:

    “If our grandparents saw us, they would die laughing, then die of shame. For them, our economic slide would be a mere inconvenience, not a crisis. Because Spaniards, who for centuries knew how to be poor with dignity, never knew how to be docile.

    Never. Until now”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/opinion/when-we-were-poor-before.html?_r=0

    There are demonstrations. But there’s no credible demand for accountability or an end to corruption that is rampant in all levels of government and business.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Gore was rightwing and Gore vidal was correct. What does “ps – remember the bp meds!!!” mean?

  • The_Fixer

    Oh, yes.

    I’m a radio hobbyist and come from a family that was in broadcasting, and have been following this stuff for years. The revolving door between the FCC and the industry it is supposed to regulate spins incredibly fast. Then there’s the in-government cronyism – “Hey, I got a kid who needs a job… .”

    Of course this is not limited to the FCC, but they are one of the biggest offenders. I do hope that this Comcast/Time-Warner deal gets the cable-consuming public pissed to the point that this merger is able to be stopped.

    This much power held by one large company is dangerous. Couple that with the fact that they’re in bed with the government, and it becomes exponentially so.

  • cole3244

    i agree with most of your points but we differ if you think gore wasn’t a better alternative to gwb 43 and until the country sees the error of their ways our choices will be bad and worse.

    left is the answer but that has been labeled a dirty word for decades now and until we get an educated informed electorate that puts its prejudice behind things will not change.

    ps – remember the bp meds!!!

  • Indigo

    The rationing is already in place. Goods I used to think were staples are subject to price increases that place them in the hands of the monied while the less monied ration those staples more carefully and the nouveaux pauvres look more carefully for alternatives on the shelves in the Dollar Store.

  • Indigo

    That veneer peeled away during the Bush administration’s piracy years but, much to my surprise, the Obamacrats have successfully pryed away even the remnants of the veneer and compounded the piracy by opening the door to monopolies. All that, just when I thought there was nothing left to loot after the Bushians were driven out.

  • Bill_Perdue

    There are differences between socialist (even time social democrats like the PSOE) and capitalist parties. The Democrats and Republicans are both capitalist parties – both are right wing. Spain is not going fascist, working people there are moving left.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Bush 2 had the same policies as Gore. Enrich the rich, deny marriage rights and engage in wars of aggression.

    Gore didn’t bat an eye when Clinton organized the murder of half a million Iraqi children, when Clinton elbowed DOMA through Congress and hurriedly signed, it or when he signed NAFTA and the deregulation laws of 1999 and 2000, which caused the current depression.

    Those are all Democrat policies as well as Republican policies. They take slightly different approaches to the same end – serving the rich. “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.” Gore Vidal

    Gore Vidal was right.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    I disagree. That’s what they did in Spain when they said that there was NO DIFFERENCE between the Socialists (PSOE) and the Right-wing party (PP), and people didn’t vote. The Socialists deserved a pounding, but because people didn’t vote, PP won and they are now a few degrees away from fascism, already taking away abortion rights, making it illegal to demonstrate or even take video of police, making illegal marijuana, etc.

    Making politicians accountable is what needs to happen. Bring back the stocks in the public square and fill them with politicians.

  • cole3244

    your memory is short & i would remind you of gwb 43 was he a better alternative to gore, i think not but beauty or ugly is in the eye of the beholder.
    ps – don’t forget to take your bp meds we want to hear from you again.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The lesson is not to vote for Democrats or Republicans. Voting for one is voting for the other. It doesn’t matter which party of right wing prostitutes wins – they’re the same party in different costumes and makeup. One cannot pretend to be against capitalism and for workers and vote Democrat or Republican.

    The insurance company hand-out bill – Romneycare/Obamacare is one of the best examples of that.

    Democrat politicians are Republicans in disguise.

  • cole3244

    when the left are too intimidated to even use the label liberal you know the war has already been lost and the continuing path to the right and fascism is unrelenting.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Hey, whatever makes the wealthy wealthier and consolidates power into the hands of a few – it’s the American way. I’m looking forward to all resources I use and need to be rationed, so as not to impede the excesses of the ruling class.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Every merger produces less information and news and more propaganda. Boycott Comcast/NBC/MSNBC.

    Thanks GP.

  • Bill_Perdue

    How do the racist murders of American citizens, fracking, offshore drilling (and soon Keystone XL), wars of aggression, total collusion and corruption, union busting of a huge scale and vicious, mean spirited attacks on the standard of living make him or any Democrat a better alternative to McCain or Romney or any Republican.

    The theory of the lesser evil is total bs. It’s an excuse for vote for the rich and their program.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Laws can do nothing by themselves. They have to be enforced.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    It’s true and it applies to all the regulatory agencies as well as corporate lawyers/dept of justice.

  • Richard

    The system is rigged. The government will approve the merger, with future employment hopes in mind and the sucker american consumer will be stuck with higher subscription bills and piss-poor service. I thought we had laws against monopolies ?

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Can we (consumers) sue to stop this merger? In fact, we should sue to undue most of the Telecommunications Act (from the 90s). We were lied to. They told us we’d get more service for less. It’s more only in the sense of more channels that show the exact same programs and it’s certainly not less expensive.

  • jomicur

    Edit: “a BARELY better alternative…”

  • jomicur

    When Obama promised he’d change the way business gets done in Washington, the sheep who supported him (a class which doesn’t include myself) didn’t realize he meant he was going to make it worse. Hope and change, my ass.

  • nicho

    I could make an argument that the opposition was chosen specifically to make a corporatist imposter like Obama the “lesser of two evils.”

  • nicho

    Exactly. The sooner we realize that we live in a corporate dictatorship with a thin, but non-functioning, veneer of “democracy,” the sooner we can just all relax and get on with whatever lives our corporate masters will allow us to have.

  • cole3244

    because obama was a better alternative from the opposition doesn’t change the fact that he is a fraud like most in the dem party.

  • therling

    This is hardly surprising. There has long been a “revolving door” hiring policy between the FCC and the industry it purportedly regulates. It’s been said that working at the FCC is seen as training for potential industry hirees.

  • Indigo

    Should we pretend to be surprised?

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