April 6, 2012–Last week a bill to restructure the Federal Communications Commission's rulemaking process passed the House of Representatives, 247-174. The measure was supported by AT&T, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and Verizon Communications, all of which are major contributors to the bill's 10 sponsors.
H.R. 3309, sponsored by Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and nine other co-sponsors, would establish additional requirements for the FCC before the agency could issue new regulations. These would include identifying a specific market failure or harm that warrants new rules, holding a longer public comment period, and providing a cost-benefit analysis of all regulations applied. It would also limit the ability of the agency to include any terms on corporate mergers. Lawmakers supporting the bill say it would ensure the FCC's enactment of more appropriate rules, shorten its reaction time, and allow for more public input to the agency, while opponents say it is simply an attempt to hamstring the FCC and make it more difficult to fulfill its public interest function.
The FCC has authority to regulate many communications sectors, including telephone, cable television, broadband internet, broadcast radio and television, satellite television, and radio spectrum allocation. Eight of the bill's 10 sponsors have at least one, if not several, FCC-regulated companies among their top 10 contributing organizations. Comcast made the top 10 list of five sponsors, while the National Cable & Telecommunications Association made four top 10 lists.
Senate Democrats have said that they will not pass the bill, and President Obama has indicated that he may veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Despite this, several industry groups have already praised the passage of the bill, with National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Michael Powell commending Walden for his attempt to reform the FCC.
MapLight has conducted an analysis of campaign contributions from FCC-regulated companies/industries which are among the top 10 contributing organizations to Greg Walden and the nine co-sponsors of H.R. 3309. All contribution figures are from July 1, 2009–June 30, 2011. Click here to download a spreadsheet of the contributions included in this report.
- Greg Walden (R-Ore.): Comcast ($30,500), CenturyLink ($25,500), AT&T ($13,500), the National Association of Broadcasters ($13,000), Clear Channel Communications ($11,800). Greg Walden, the original author of the bill, is the second largest recipient of contributions from interest groups which explicitly supported this bill. Walden is also the largest recipient of contributions from Comcast and second largest recipient of contributions from CenturyLink in the House of Representatives.
- Joe Barton (R-Texas): Comcast ($17,500), Verizon Communications ($10,500), Time Warner Cable ($10,000). Joe Barton is one of the top 5 recipients of contributions from Time Warner Cable.
- Charlie Bass (R-N.H.): National Cable & Telecommunications Association ($15,000), Comcast ($14,650), DirecTV Group ($14,400).
- Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.): Comcast ($13,500).
- Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.): AT&T ($13,000), Comcast ($11,000), National Cable & Telecommunications Association ($11,000), DirecTV Group ($9,000), T-Mobile USA ($9,000).
- Lee Terry (R-Neb.): CenturyLink ($30,450). Terry is the largest recipient of contributions from CentruyLink. Telecom Services & Equipment ($61,450) and Telephone Utilities ($56,000) industries are among Terry's top 10 contributing interests.
- Bob Latta (R-Ohio): National Cable & Telecommunications Association ($9,000), AT&T ($8,000).
- Steve Scalise (R-La.): National Cable & Telecommunications Association ($12,500). Interest groups from Cable & satellite TV production & distribution as a whole contributed $23,500 to Steve Scalise.
- Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.): Comcast ($10,500) was just $500 dollars short of making Adam Kinzinger’s top 10.
- John Kline (R-Minn.): John Kline was the only sponsor of the bill without significant contributions from FCC-regulated companies.
METHODOLOGY: MapLight analysis of reported contributions to congressional campaigns of sponsors of H.R. 3309 as of April 4, 2012 and their top 10 contributing organizations from July 1, 2009–June 30, 2011. Campaign contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org).