Teletruth News Release: October 19th, 2009

And now a word from our sponsors…

Congressmen, Senators and Minority Groups Getting Paid by AT&T, Verizon and the Cablecos to Block Net Neutrality?

3 Letters – One Subplot:

• 72 Democrats Write a Letter: AT&T, Verizon, Cablecos Contributions.

http://www.newnetworks.com/democratsagainstnetneutral.htm

• Minorities Letter Against Net Neutrality: AT&T and Verizon Funding.

http://www.newnetworks.com/minoritiesverizonatt.htm

• Senator Brownback spearheads letter against Net Neutrality: Telco Funding.

 

On October 22nd, 2009 the FCC is supposed to be voting on clarifying Net Neutrality principles. Whether you are for or against or even know what Net Neutrality really is--- it is clear that there’s an untold subplot --- How the companies are manipulating the agenda to block Net Neutrality using senators, congressmen, and even Hispanics, blacks and Asians as human political shields.

In the last week, the FCC was questioned by three different letters representing a group of 72 Democrats, a group of 18 Republicans, and a group of minorities --- blacks, Hispanics and even Asians who are against Net Neutrality. Could it be that they receive funding from AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc. and they are just spouting the public line? Sure looks that way. Follow the money and its clear this could be a put on job.

The merit of their arguments, all of them are making the same claims, are dubious at best. The party line: --- proposed regulations could inhibit investments being made by phone companies. If these distinguished groups and persons were so concerned about ‘investments’, then why haven’t they actually called for an investigation as the phone companies are NOT the major investors of the networks – customers have been and continue to fund broadband through major rate increases. In fact, America’s phone customers have spent over $300 billion and counting, and we’re still 15th in the world in broadband. The companies never fulfilled their obligations to upgrade the Public Switched Telephone Networks with fiber optics, but kept the money. Since this 'customer-as-defacto-investor continues today in the form of local rate increases across America, in August we asked the FCC to create a new workshop/investigation called “Follow the Broadband Money”.

http://www.newnetworks.com/fccbroadbandworkshops.htm

We are now recommending that we also follow the money that AT&T, Verizon and the cable companies have been doling out, in part to manipulate the agenda through campaign financing, or monies given to non-profits, ‘co-opting’ their position, or the creation of fake consumer groups and hired corporate-think tanks to take down Net Neutrality. We’ve outlined this issue in numerous articles for Harvard Neiman Watchdog.

http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Background.view&backgroundid=167

These pay-offs to get support are, well, business as usual, and should be investigated for what it is – a destruction of the public interest by large corporations that want undue influence and to remove the votes and voices of the public.

Let’s outline the three letters discussed.

1) 72 Democrats who are against Net Neutrality Letter:

http://www.publicknowledge.org/pdf/dem-letter-20091016.pdf

It was signed by the 72 House Democrats. The list was originally posted on Slashdot.

http://politics.slashdot.org/story/09/10/17/1321253/Democrats-Minority-Groups-Question-Net-Neutrality-Push

The author writes: “And now a word from our sponsors”. “I should point out that this list is just contributions to campaign committees, not to PACs”

Click on this link to see the entire list of the 72 Democrats and their funding: http://www.newnetworks.com/Democratsagainstnetneutral.htm

Almost all of the 72 Democrats signing the letter received money from those who would benefit from killing off Net Neutrality ---AT&T, Verizon, the cable companies (and their unions and associations).

Here are just the first five signatories: (we include PACx)

Arcuri(NY-27) AT&T $9000, CWA (telco union) $6500, Verizon $5000, Comcast $5000.
Baca (CA-43) AT&T $10000, Comcast $9000, Verizon $8100, NCTA $5000
Barrow (GA-12) NCTA (cable asc) $5000, AT&T 5000, Comcast $5000, Verizon $2750
S Bishop (GA-2 AT&T $10,000 CWA $10,000, Verizon, $9500
T Bishop (NY-1) CWA $10000, AT&T $8000, Verizon $3000, Cablevision $3500

 

Was this letter initiated by AT&T, Verizon or the cablecos?

2) The Republican Letter with 18 Signatories

IDG News Service (10/16/2009) reports that a group of 18 Republican U.S. senators also sent a letter, spearheaded by Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican.

http://www.goodgearguide.com.au/article/322375

Republican Letter:

http://www.publicknowledge.org/pdf/republican-letter-20091013.pdf

Senator Brownback’s funding sources shows contributions from AT&T (formerly SBC), Verizon, and an independent, IDT. Opensecrets.org shows Brownback’s Number 2 donor in 2008 was AT&T, and in 2004, they were Number 1.

This chart gives the ‘total’, money from individual donors, and Pac money, which can be as large as the individual donor contributions. (Source

Opensecrets.org.)

Rank Contributor Total Indivs Pacs
2008  
2 AT&T Inc
$28,700
$10,700
$18,000
2006  
1 IDT
$19250
$19,250
$0
9 AT&T
$13,500
$.0
$13,500
14 Verizoon
$12,500
$0
$12,500
2004  
1 SBC(now AT&T)
$20,000
$7,500

$12,500

2 IDT
$18,250
$18,250
$0
3 Sprint
$17,000
$8,000
$9,000
14 Verizon
$11,000
$0
$11,000

3) Minority Group Letter.

First, let’s be very clear – Non-profits should take every cent large corporations have to give when it comes to helping their constituents.

However, what’s going on here is that most of these minority non-profits are then touting the corporate line, which has hurt the people they claim they represent. The groups worry about Universal Service, Digital Divide, and other areas. But they don’t ask – “Why has Verizon and AT&T raised local rates, in many states 50%-90% on almost every item on the bill, harming our constituents? Where’s the fiber optic wiring we were promised and why have the caretakers of America’s critical infrastructure harmed America?” As advocates, instead of taking the corporations’ money, shouldn’t the organizations first protect its members?

This letter was signed by 17 groups --- 100 Black Men of America, Asian American Justice Center, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, ASPIRA, Black College Communications Association, Dominican American National Roundtable, Hispanic Institute, Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership, Japanese American Citizens League, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA), Labor Council on Latin American Advancement, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc., League of United Latin American Citizens, MANA: A National Latina Organization, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Association of Neighborhoods, and National Coalition of Black Civic Participation.

Here is a copy of the letter:

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=7020141809

For links documenting the involvement of the letter signatories with Verizon or AT&T, click here. (Most were found doing a quick Google search) http://www.newnetworks.com/minoritiesverizonatt.htm

Many of these groups do important, essential work with help from their benefactors AT&T and Verizon, but they are crossing the non-profit line, and are spouting the corporate line. They claim Net Neutrality harms investment and jobs:

“Proposed regulations could inhibit investments being made by companies employing hundreds of thousands of workers and connecting millions to the opportunities that broadband technology affords to those in our community – from telemedicine to distance learning to applying for jobs online.”

As we discussed, none of the groups have confronted Verizon or AT&T asking about customer-funding of broadband. Nor have they examined the fact that Verizon and AT&T have laid off 32,000 people through 2009. (*Verizon just laid off 16,000 in 2009 and, AT&T laid off 16,000 as well.) The companies make a larger profit with less staff.

Verizon http://www.employmentspectator.com/2009/07/verizon-will-cut-8000-more-jobs/AT&T

http://www.itu.int/ITUD/ict/newslog/ATT+To+Cut+12000+Jobs+4+Percent+Of+Staff.aspx

More to the point, most of these groups have filed with the FCC or other regulatory venues to back their benefactors time and again, many times contradicting the needs of their own members.

In going through each groups’ funding a disturbing picture arises; almost all have (or had) direct financial connections to AT&T and Verizon, and in many cases, the money spent has nothing to do with Net Neutrality but on reading skills or empowerment. --- i.e., they get money from the companies that is not related to the issues, then file comments at the FCC about the issues, supporting their funding source.

For example,

  • League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, received a $1 million grant from the Verizon Foundation for “Latinos Literacy Program for Hispanic Children”
  • In 2006, the NAACP received $1.5 million from the Verizon Foundation.

In fact, Verizon and AT&T spread around lot of money. AT&T has been strengthening the Asian American community. Two of the letter signatories are mentioned.

“AT&T is committed to supporting organizations that strengthen Asian-American communities, including the Asian American Justice Center, the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, Asian Business Associations, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Asian Women in Business, Committee of 100, Economic Business Development and the Organization of Chinese Americans.”

Verizon is very generous to the Hispanic community.

“In all, the Verizon Foundation has awarded more than $40 million in grants since 2006 to nonprofit organizations that benefit and serve the Hispanic community.”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but – where do you think they get the money from? The funding is from everyone with service as the phone rate increases that Verizon and AT&T customers’ pay are being used to buy favors from the non-profit community --- which in turn hurts all of us as they are using our funding to create influence so that regulators create damaging laws and regulations to the public interest.

And is all this legal? It, may, in fact, be a conflict of their non-profit status.

“To be tax-exempt as an organization described in IRC Section 501(c)(3) of the Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for one or more of the purposes set forth in IRC Section 501(c)(3) and none of the earnings of the organization may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate at all in campaign activity for or against political candidates"

Is it legal to influence the FCC? Is it legal to use the non-profits resources to help those that gave the non-profit the money, especially if it is not related to their mandate?

One thing is clear --- It is business as usual in the Bell Jar that is DC.

Bruce Kushnick, Teletruth

bruce@teletruth.org