Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When the Telecommunications Special Interests Call, NC Politicians Answer

Under the Dome reports on a "Follow the Money" investigation by the National Institute on State Politics of special-interest contributions by telecommunications companies to NC legislators.
A new report suggests campaign contributions from the telecommunications industry helped pave the way for a bill to restrict public broadband networks.

An industry association PAC and PACs affiliated with some of the state’s biggest cable providers, Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink, gave $1.6 million to state candidates since 2006, particularly lining the campaign pockets of four key leaders, according to a study by the National Institute on State Politics.

House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Cornelius, received $37,000 in 2010 and 2011, more than any lawmaker. Senate President Phil Berger, R-Eden, received $19,500. Senate GOP Majority Leader Harry Brown of Jacksonville received $9,000. Senate Democratic leader Martin Nesbitt of Asheville received $8,250. All four supported the bill.
As if the large contributions weren't skeevy enough, telecommunications special interests helped to seal the deal by shoveling in additional off-cycle contributions just before the bill restricting public networks was introduced. From the Follow the Money report
Though not large in scope, the timing of some of the 2011 contributions is notable. On Jan. 26, just a few weeks before HB 129 was filed on Feb 16, AT&T and Time Warner Cable each gave $2,000 to the North Carolina Republican Party; two days later, they gave the North Carolina Democratic Party $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. AT&T then gave an additional $1,500 to the Democratic Party on May 23, shortly after the bill became law. While the contributions were not large, per se, they were given while the bill was moving through the legislature, and long after the 2010 elections were over.
According to the report, telecommunications companies have paid more than $90,000 in 2011 to legislators and political parties.

These "investments" have generated a substantial pay off for the telecommunications industry, but the rest of us get stuck holding the bill.