Comcast and Time Warner Cable have withdrawn their financial support for a fundraising dinner honoring one of the federal regulators who will vote on the companies’ proposed merger.
In a letter to the Walter Kaitz Foundation on Thursday, Comcast vice president Charisse Lillie said the cable giant would pull its planned $110,000 contribution and does not want to be recognized during the event, which will honor Federal Communications Commission member Mignon Clyburn as a diversity advocate.
Lillie said Comcast will still make an equal “unrestricted donation” to the foundation. Time Warner made the same move with its $22,000 contribution to the dinner, informing the nonprofit group of its decision by phone, according to a Politico article.
“We do not want either [Mignon] or Kaitz to fall under a shadow as a result of our support for diversity in the cable industry, which is why we are withdrawing our support for the dinner,” Lillie said in the letter.
The decisions came less than a week after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and The Washington Post reported that the two companies planned to contribute to the Mignon dinner.
“We’re glad Comcast recognizes donating more than $100,000 to honor a regulator with authority over their pending merger … raises serious questions,” CREW said in a statement on Thursday.
Comcast and Time Warner have contributed heavily to the foundation for years.
Comcast and NBC Universal, which joined forces in 2011, have donated at least $120,000 annually to support the group’s fundraising dinner since 2011, and more than $1 million since 2004, the companies said. Time Warner gave between $40,000 and $55,000 annually since 2011, according to a spokesman Bobby Amirshahi.
“We absolutely dispute the notion that our contributions have anything to do with currying favor with Commissioner Clayburn or any honoree,” Comcast’s Sena Fitzmaurice said in a statement this week.
Amirshahi defended Time Warner’s donation on Wednesday, saying the company was “pleased to continue” its contributions after 30 years of support for the Kaitz Foundation.
Clyburn’s office said Wednesday that the commissioner “sought and obtained the requisite ethics approval” to accept the group’s invitation, adding that “it makes sense to honor a champion of diversity and inclusion, the first African American woman on the commission and the only woman in the commission’s 80-year history to serve as its chair.”