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Buying Influence: The AT&T/T-Mobile Merger and Michigan Politicians

August 29, 2011

Over the past several months there has been an effort by AT&T and T-Mobile to merge making them the largest telecom corporation in the country.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been hearing arguments and getting input from the public. In addition, the Media Reform group Free Press, based in Madison, has been engaged in a campaign to defeat this merger.

In recent weeks it has been discovered through an internal memo to AT&T that the merger would eliminate an estimated 20,000 US jobs. It has also been discovered that the cost of texting would increase if the merger were to go through, because there would be less competition.

In a recent campaign to target the White House with opposition to the merger, Free Press included the following as part of their campaign:

“We at Free Press have warned about this from day one. Now, in a letter that was inadvertently leaked, one of AT&T’s own lawyers has confirmed it. The letter reveals the merger has nothing to do with expanding AT&T’s coverage to 97 percent of the country – the main argument the company has made to gain Washington’s support – and everything to do with eliminating the cheaper T-Mobile option from the marketplace (and laying off half of its workforce) to pad company profits.”

Free Press has also created this short video as a popular education tool to inform people about why a merger between AT&T and T-Mobil would be bad for the public.

Michigan Politicians

The FCC has yet to decide on this matter, but one thing that both AT&T and T-Mobile have been doing is trying to influence the political process with money.

According to the Center for Responsible Politics, AT&T has contributed to almost every member of the House and Senate from Michigan. In 2010 alone, this chart shows which Michigan politicians have received money and how much. Fred Upton was the top recipient with $11,000, but AT&T spent its money with both Republicans and Democrats.

Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow received $3,000 in 2010 from AT&T, but has received a total of $51,900 from the Telecom giant since joining the Senate in 1989. Stabenow has also received a total of $3,000 from T-Mobile since 2010. Michigan Congressmen John Conyers and Fred Upton each received $10,000 from T-Mobile in 2010 alone.

It seems clear that AT&T and T-Mobile have been busy spending money on both Republicans and Democrats from Michigan in order to influence the outcome of the proposed merger, a topic that has received little coverage in the commercial media.

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