Comcast and Time Warner Cable are shelling out a combined $132,000 to honor Obama-appointed FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at a September dinner, while at the same time waiting for the agency to green-light a merger worth billions.
Clyburn will receive the Walter Kaitz Foundation’s “diversity advocate” award at the annual dinner, which Comcast is paying $110,000 to sponsor, and Time Warner Cable an additional $22,000, according to a recent Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) blog post.
“I think that the timing is curious,” CREW research director Carrie Levine said in a Politico report. “They’re honoring an FCC commissioner at the exact same time they’re trying to get approval for a merger. And that doesn’t look so good.”
Time Warner Cable, which announced the proposed $45-billion merger in February along with Comcast, made its contribution in May. If approved, the combined companies will control some 40 percent of the country’s broadband market, and about 30 percent of TV subscribers, according to the report.
Both companies state they’ve supported the foundation for years, and there are reportedly no rules preventing the companies from donating, nor Clyburn from attending.
“We absolutely dispute the notion that our contributions have anything to do with currying favor with Commissioner Clyburn or any honoree,” Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said in a statement. “Such claims are insulting and not supported by any evidence. They are purely fiction. We have supported the organization year in and year out regardless of who the dinner honorees have been.”
“The [foundation] is the centerpiece of this industry’s efforts to not just recruit but to advance and train people of multi-ethnicity,” Time Warner spokesman Bobby Amirshahi said in the report. “The reality is the honoree was not a consideration for us as one of many companies that supported [the dinner.]”
According to Comcast the company has sponsored similar amounts in the past, but Clyburn’s appearance in September will mark the first time a sitting commissioner has attended.
A foundation dinner committee made up of major telecom execs, including Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, selects the awardees, according to a foundation spokeswoman.