Where AT&T Money Goes, Merger Support Follows

Less than a week after seven attorneys general joined the Justice Department suit to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, 10 other attorneys general threw their support behind AT&T.

In a Sept. 21 letter, the 10 AGs, who signed on to an earlier pro-merger letter in July, encouraged the FCC and the DoJ to work with AT&T to resolve any differences and allow the merger to proceed. “We continue to believe that this transaction is in the best interest of consumers and of economic growth in our states and in the country at large,” the letter reads. (As Free Press and others have shown, this merger is anything but consumer-friendly; it’s likely to result in 20,000 new additions to the unemployment line and will destroy competition in the wireless market.)

The AGs represent Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, and the men from Michigan and South Dakota are the only ones in the group who have not benefited from AT&T’s largesse. The other eight have collectively received $28,490 in AT&T contributions, according to data gathered by Follow the Money, a campaign-finance database created by the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics.

This places them in the company of pretty much everyone who has voiced support for the merger.

In the first half of 2011, AT&T lobbying spending jumped by 30 percent, to $11.7 million. Some of this money was spent on lavish parties held at various Beltway restaurants; revelers paid $1,000 to attend these soirées, which were designed to drum up money for AT&T-friendly legislators.

The bid paid off. Earlier this month, 15 House Reps signed a letter urging President Obama to support a settlement that would enable the merger to move forward; these signers collectively received more than $570,000 in campaign contributions from AT&T.

And last Tuesday, 100 House Republicans signed a similar letter to Obama; all but one of these lawmakers have received donations from AT&T employees, for a whopping total of $963,275.

Texas Rep. Pete Olson, one of the signers, received an additional reward for his loyalty. Last Thursday he was the beneficiary of the “Telecommunications Industry Lunch,” backed by AT&T, with suggested contributions of $2,500, $1,000 or $500 going to the Olson for Congress Committee. Assistant AT&T Vice President J. Barry Hutchison sent out an email on Olson’s behalf, heralding him as a “leader on the Energy and Commerce Committee.” (Melissa Kelly, a spokeswoman for Olson, denied that AT&T had sponsored the luncheon.)

Maybe money can’t buy you love—but it sure goes a long way toward securing blind devotion.