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Prominent Ties Among Comcast Hires
"He's a very affable, capable, well-spoken and likable figure in the business community and in all of the corridors of Maryland politics," said Wayne K. Curry (D), a former Prince George's county executive.
Late in 2000, Burch hired Eric M. Bromwell, a son of the Baltimore County Democrat who was then a state senator. Within a few weeks, brother Thomas L. Bromwell Jr. was also on the payroll.
Earlier that year, their father sponsored a bill that had a dramatic impact on Comcast revenue. The state's highest court had capped late fees and ordered that millions in refunds be paid to subscribers. Bromwell's bill lifted the cap.
A court later struck down a retroactive provision in the legislation, and Comcast was forced to pay the refunds. But the lasting impact of the bill was to restore a revenue stream for Comcast and other cable providers.
The former senator said in an interview that his sons got their work on their own, and he said any suggestion that the jobs came in response to his legislative work would be ridiculous. "I heard they were hiring, and they went through the process," he said.
Eric Bromwell, who now serves in the House of Delegates, said he recuses himself from any debate that touches on Comcast.
Because cable franchises are granted by counties or municipalities, Comcast's business is often negotiated with local officials. In 2001, the company faced an assault on its monopoly in Prince George's when rival Starpower Communications sought a franchise there.
Curry's administration initially reached an agreement with Starpower. But after the County Council approved it, the administration insisted that Starpower pay for an additional $400,000 in technological improvements. Faced with the new demand, Starpower dropped out.
"We're at a loss to explain why additional requirements were proposed after the fact," a Starpower spokeswoman, Patricia MacEwan, said at the time.
In February 2003, three months after Curry left office, Comcast hired him as a "general business consultant," a position he still holds, the company said.
Curry said any suggestion his job was a reward would be "absurd" and added, "the Comcast people were angry with me," because of the initial contract. Curry said he believes Starpower dropped out because of financial troubles and added he "would never have had even the slightest inkling of a detail that trivial in the transaction."
Gordon, Comcast's spokesman, said, "It's not really uncommon for past elected officials to become consultants." Hiring such officials as Eileen M. Rehrmann, a former Harford County executive and Democratic candidate for governor, "can add value to our in-house workforce," he said. Rehrmann did not return calls for comment.
Comcast announced in December that Burch was leaving the company to become chief executive of NTL International, a British telecommunications company. In January, Comcast announced a restructuring that could result in 125 layoffs.
Eric Bromwell said he is among those whose jobs are in jeopardy. He worked directly for Burch and called him "the best boss I ever had."