(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. …


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.


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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