& cplSiteName &

AT&T Lobbying Efforts Under Scrutiny

Carol Wilson
4/25/2014
50%
50%

AT&T's support for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is once again under scrutiny, this time by a group that wants AT&T shareholders to vote in favor of a requirement that the company publicly disclose the amount of money it is spending to lobby at the state level, and in its support of lobbying groups such as ALEC.

The effort is being presented by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shareholders AFSCME, Zevin Asset Management and Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate at today's Annual Meeting. As part of the AT&T proxy statement, the group is asking shareholders to support requirements that AT&T's board disclose its lobbying policies and expenditures.

AT&T is recommending a vote against the proposal, noting in its proxy statement that it already discloses its lobbying expenditures. "AT&T is committed to adhering to the highest ethical standards when engaging in any political activities. AT&T's policies and procedures with respect to political contributions are clearly set forth on the Company's website in the Corporate Governance section. AT&T publishes the AT&T Political Engagement Report semiannually; it is an itemized list of corporate contributions and employee PAC contributions to candidates and candidate."

A particular target of the effort is AT&T's support for ALEC, an organization funded by corporations that also includes state legislators and works to draft model legislation. The group came under fire for having drafted a model Stand Your Ground Law, similar to what was adopted in Florida prior to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot him. ALEC backers have pointed out the Florida bill preceded their model legislation.

In this instance, however, the corporate watchdog group backing the latest proxy vote, SumOfUs.org, is more focused on AT&T's efforts to shape telecom regulation at the state level to eliminate many of the rules by which AT&T and other legacy telecom players are still forced to play such as carrier of last resort and wholesale interconnection requirements.

"We are saying there should be full accounting and oversight of AT&T's lobbying efforts and its relationship to ALEC and that shareholders should be aware of what AT&T is spending," says Lisa Lindsley, a spokeswoman for the group, which has gathered 55,000 signatures on a petition backing the proxy vote. "The Board should be accountable and make sure shareholders are aware of the risks."

Those risks include damaging its public reputation among potential customers, she says.

CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are also members of ALEC, which has drafted model legislation that addresses a number of concerns for incumbent telecom and cable providers including bills that would prohibit municipalities from building broadband networks, eliminate local cable franchises in favor of state-wide franchises and give network operators greater access to public rights-of-way while limiting local authority to collect fees.

AT&T is being singled out in part because of its presence on ALEC's board, Lindsley says: "AT&T certainly has a leadership role within ALEC that we haven't seen other telco players having," she says. The proxy vote is advisory, not binding, so even if a substantial number of shareholders vote in favor of it, the AT&T board does not have to act.

AT&T has defended its funding and participation in ALEC in the past, including standing up to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) when he inquired about AT&T's participation in ALEC following the Zimmerman acquittal. Noting that any answers given to Durbin would likely fuel ALEC critics, AT&T's longtime chief lobbyist James Cicconi, a senior vice president at the company, defended AT&T's free speech rights in a letter that was excerpted in an editorial in The Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE: 4/28/2014 -- AT&T shareholders rejected the idea of requiring an annual report on lobbying by a 3-1 margin.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(22)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/21/2014 | 5:14:18 PM
Re: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Thanks for the plug. That site definitely looks interesting.

Hopefully it helps make a difference.
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/30/2014 | 5:43:27 PM
Re: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
That still baffles me. The guy publicly was discriminatory in his pre-Clipper business practices. How does a person like that get any type of award??
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
4/29/2014 | 2:20:38 PM
Re: Re : AT&T Lobbying Efforts Under Scrutiny
AT&T has long been savvy in using its money at the state level to get things it wants from legislators and, on occasion, regulators, atlhough that's not the typical path.

Today, AT&T has a substantial wish list at the state level: they would like to see most of the regulations that applied to them as a telephone company relaxed or eliminated in the Internet area. They don't want to be forced to be the carrier of last resort, for instance, maintaining an aging network that serves an ever-smaller number of (mostly low-value) customers. They would like to be able to substitute wireless access where copper access is costly to maintain. And they would like to prevent competition from municipalities who occasionally decide to fund the build-out of their own broadband networks. 

They would like the states to prevent local governments from imposing fees or franchise agreements, as well.

So spending to get friendly treatment at the state level is probably a good investment for their business. 

The SumOfUs.org folks think this is happening under the investor radar even though AT&T claims everything is already disclosed. I suspect the information is there for those who dig, but few people care to dig. 

I don't doubt there is an agenda on the SumOfUs.org side - they think AT&T should be pressured to stop advancing its deregulation agenda at the state level. I've seen AT&T operate in the states since I started covering telecom in 1985 and I don't think they're going to stop anytime soon.
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/29/2014 | 2:08:09 PM
Re : AT&T Lobbying Efforts Under Scrutiny
It is hard to see how much AT&T stand to gain out of their support and sponsorship for ALEC. Other backers were quick to distance themselves when attention was raised to the similarities between their drafts and the Stand Your Own Ground bill but this AT seems to be oblivious to this fact. This, in my mind, sounds a warning bell that the latter may be looking for more legislative favors than they would want the public and even their shareholders to know.
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/29/2014 | 2:05:40 PM
Re: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Even though the shareholders do have a right to know how their money is being managed and spent, I believe that this move by the lobby group SomeOfUs.org is about something else and has very little, if anything, to do with increasing financial accountability. As pointed out, the money that giant companies spend on lobbying is a very small fraction compared to what they spend in unnecessary legal fees and marketing campaigns. If it was about greater financial accountability, these would definitely be the places to begin the fight for blood.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/29/2014 | 9:19:31 AM
Re: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
The fact that Donald Sterling almost received not one but two lifetime achievement awards from the NAACP tells us all we need to know about the effect of spreading money around.
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/28/2014 | 9:51:31 PM
Re: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Reminds me of House of Cards, if you're familiar with the show.

I would think that you'd want to avoid the majority to try & get the minority to push your agenda. Seems like giving to all can lead to deadlock (political gesturing-wise).
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/28/2014 | 4:58:02 PM
Re: Proposal rejected
Divine intervention only goes so far...
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
4/28/2014 | 3:48:11 PM
Proposal rejected
Only about a quarter of AT&T shareholders voted in favor of requiring an annual report on lobbying activities so the proposal was rejected. 
sam masud
50%
50%
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/28/2014 | 2:22:52 PM
Open up
Lobby dollars I guess are free speech (probably that's what the Supremes, or at least a majority of them, likely think) but it's reasonable to ask how much this "free speech" costs.
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
From The Founder
The independent evaluation of Nokia's key virtual network functions (VNFs) was a defining moment for the Finnish giant.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Energy 2020: Growing Services, Not Consumption

6|24|16   |   07:18   |   (0) comments


Management of power requirements needs to be a key consideration as cable operators deploy new services, says Dan Cooper, vice president of critical infrastructure for Charter Communications and chair of the SCTE/ISBE Standards Program's Energy Management Subcommittee. In this video, Cooper discusses the importance of cable operators and technology partners ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei & TDC First to Launch DOCSIS 3.1 Trial in Europe

6|24|16   |     |   (0) comments


To meet the rising demands for high-speed broadband and to tackle fierce competition for 1.5 million household, TDC wanted to upgrade its network to use the latest technology. Using Huawei's DOCSIS 3.1 solution, TDC is now able to offer gigabit speeds to its customers.
LRTV Documentaries
OPNFV Summit: Key Takeaways

6|22|16   |   03:28   |   (0) comments


MANO shortfalls, an increasingly bloated open source ecosystem and the cultural challenges for network operators were among the key takeaways from the OPNFV Summit in Berlin.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Bringing Ultra Broadband to the South Pacific

6|22|16   |   7:55   |   (0) comments


At Singapore's UBBS 2016 summit, Light Reading speaks to Lim Chee Siong, Huawei's CMO in the South Pacific Region.
LRTV Custom TV
Juniper's NFV Platform

6|22|16   |     |   (0) comments


A telco cloud is a key enabler for service providers to deliver virtualized services to their customers. Juniper has a differentiated approach with an open and comprehensive NFV platform to build the cloud of the future for multiple use cases.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Infinera: The Glass Ceiling's Been Broken

6|22|16   |   4:34   |   (0) comments


Shannon Williams, an engineer by trade and now the director of sales for Infinera's major accounts, draws confidence from being a female in a male-dominated industry and hopes other women will too as industry dynamics swing in our favor.
LRTV Custom TV
RAD Demonstrates SD-WAN Functionality at BCE 2016

6|22|16   |     |   (0) comments


In conjunction with Versa Networks, RAD demos a joint solution for SD-WAN implementation. The solution uses RAD's ETX-2i, a vCPE platform integrating a powerful IP and Carrier Ethernet NID/NTU with a field-pluggable x86 NFV module that runs Versa's FlexVNF for SD-WAN functionality. The demo implements SD-WAN over a simulated service provider footprint by deploying ...
LRTV Custom TV
Radware on Virtualizing Network Security

6|21|16   |     |   (0) comments


Radware's Michael O'Malley highlights the benefits for service providers of virtualizing network security.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei 2016 UBBS World Tour: Singapore

6|21|16   |   02:39   |   (0) comments


Highlights from Huawei's UBBS World Tour event in Singapore.
LRTV Custom TV
The FlowBROKER Solution

6|21|16   |     |   (0) comments


During a demo at the Big Communications Event 2016, Accedian director of product line solutions Greg Spear demonstrates how the FlowBROKER distributed packet capture solution (part of Accedian's SkyLIGHT platform) can be used to troubleshoot and resolve QoE issues.

FlowBROKER is the industry's first lossless remote packet capture solution, which uses ...

LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2016: Dell & the New World Order

6|21|16   |   22:48   |   (0) comments


Dell's Jim Ganthier on how the very essence of enterprise is being affected by digital disruption – and how the cloud can help companies find a path forward.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2016: The CSP of the Future

6|20|16   |     |   (0) comments


Traditional telecom operators have been adopting new ways of doing business from the IT sector and emulating web-scale companies in their technology adoption. Are these strategies succeeding? A panel of experts at BCE considered the evidence...
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 6-8, 2016,
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
Hot Topics
FCC to Vote on 5G Spectrum on July 14
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 6/20/2016
'Brexit' Vote Hits BT, Vodafone
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/24/2016
Twitter Buys Magic Pony... Not That Kind
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/20/2016
AT&T Settles on LTE for Cellular IoT
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 6/22/2016
Google Fiber Buys Webpass in Wireless Play
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/23/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
At the BCE 2016 show in Austin, ECI Telecom CEO Darryl Edwards tells Light Reading founder and CEO about the Elastic Network concept and the company's NFV and cybersecurity developments.
Mark Dzuban, president and CEO of SCTE/ISBE, sits down with Steve Saunders in Light Reading's New York office to discuss the society's Energy 2020 campaign, including its mission to benefit the environment, enable economic benefits and the key challenges facing cable operators wanting to reduce energy consumption.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.