Using lobbyists, hired consultants, fake consumer groups, think tanks and an unlimited number of advocacy groups willing to repeat whatever they're told in exchange for cash donations -- AT&T has created a "sound wall" of support for their planned acquisition of T-Mobile despite the deal's likely negative impact
. AT&T lobbyists have engaged in these practices for decades, but only recently received attention for it when the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and eight board members (one an AT&T lobbyist) were forced to resign after using the group as an AT&T bullhorn
AT&T has used all manner of groups to parrot merger support, ranging from cattle rancher groups
to ballooning associations
, all of whom have delivered breathless merger support either gratis or for cash donations. Despite this, the GLAAD fallout is the first time we can remember the company ever taking a PR hit for the behavior -- which usually runs below the attention threshold of the mainstream public and media. This week finds AT&T under fire for using the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission
, a homeless shelter in Louisiana, to lobby the FCC and locals
in exchange for $50,000:
The faith-based service provider offered what it acknowledged was “an out-of-place endorsement” of the AT&T merger with T-Mobile, with Rev. R. Henry Martin explaining that “People often call on God to help the outcasts and downtrodden that walk among us, [but] [s]ometimes, however, it is our responsibility to take matters into our own hands. Please support this merger.”
Who knew God wanted higher prices, reduced competition, and a further entrenched AT&T and Verizon market duopoly?
Most of these groups when asked (because we have) will insist that these are their own, legitimate positions on issues they've never been involved with before, and that they're not simply mindlessly parroting AT&T talking points for cash. In truth, many only see the cash and don't see the harm -- because they have absolutely no understanding (outside of what AT&T tells them) of the policies they're supporting, which usually run in stark contrast to the interests of their constituents and their group's stated goals.
Meanwhile, it speaks volumes about the T-Mobile merger when the majority of support for the deal has to be purchased.