The Washington Post

AT&T’s supporters and their complicated financial ties

Here’s our story on how AT&T is gearing up to fight its merger critics. On Tuesday, Sprint Nextel, Leap Wireless, rural carriers and consumer groups filed petitions with the FCC to block the deal.

Also Tuesday, AT&T released a list of governors and groups who support its proposed $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile.

We went through some of these supporters and found it’s just plain hard to find politicians or organizations that haven’t received some financial support from AT&T over the years.

The NAACP North Carolina chapter president wrote a letter of support for the deal. The national organization received more than $1 million from AT&T in 2009, according to the minority group’s annual report.

AT&T wrote in a blog post that 14 governors also support the deal:

— Bobby Jindal (R), Louisiana: His wife’s charity, the Supriya Jindal Foundation, lists AT&T as a major sponsor.

— Nathan Deal (R), Georgia: received $50,000 from AT&T for his inauguration and transition, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

— Nikki Haley (R), South Carolina: AT&T Political Action Committee contributed $3,500 to her election campaign.

— Mary Fallin (R), Oklahoma: AT&T gave $10,000 to her campaign as a U.S. representative in 2009 and her state gubernatorial campaign.

AT&T is in the top 20 spenders for lobbying between 1998 and 2011. It spent around $52 million in that time, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Verizon Communications is on the top spender list, too.

But much financial support goes unreported in federal databases. AT&T sponsored an Edmond, Okla., Chamber of Commerce luncheon featuring Fallin this year, and it is the top sponsor of an annual fundraiser this August for her crisis and suicide prevention group Helpline.

“The problem is that there is no disclosure for corporate donations but what you end up with is curious and unexpected voices in policy issues like the Urban League weighing in on the AT&T/T-Mobile [proposed merger] when the merger isn’t central to their mission,” said Ellen Miller, president of the Sunlight Foundation.


Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.



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