Thursday, December 03, 2009

Campaign Donations And The Cable Con

Democratic Governor Jim Doyle and 74 legislators who approved a controversial bill in 2007 to deregulate the cable industry have received more than $493,000 in campaign contributions since then from special interests that supported the measure.

The cable deregulation law, which supporters boasted would increase competition and lower customer bills, was the subject of a Legislative Audit Bureau report this week that found basic cable rates rose an average 21 percent over the past two years. Expanded basic rates increased 11.5 percent between July 2007 and July 2009, the audit said.

Business interests, the telephone industry and two unions - the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - backed the bill led by AT&T. The telephone giant employed 15 lobbyists to push the bill because it wanted to break into the video provider market with offerings like U-Verse faster and cheaper than under the old cable franchising system. The new law set up a state licensing system that no longer required video providers to negotiate cable contracts with individual communities.

Between January 2008 and June 2009 - the first 18 months after the new law was in place - contributions by special interest backers totaled $493,109 to Doyle, 74 legislators who voted for the bill and are still in the legislature and four legislative fundraising committees.

Doyle has gotten $182,671 followed by the four Democratic and Republican legislative campaign committees, which are mega-fundraising committees used by legislative leaders to milk special interests for campaign cash. The committees accepted between $13,000 and $39,000 from cable deregulation supporters.

For additional information about campaign contributions by AT&T and the others while the bill was being developed and debated in the legislature check out this and this about the bill's authors, Republican Representative Phil Montgomery of Ashwaubenon and Democratic Senator Jeff Plale of South Milwaukee, and this about the 23-9 Senate vote in favor of the bill.

Doyle blamed the economy for souring cable competition - though the pay-to-play economy seemed to treat his campaign just fine. And Montgomery, who has received $6,825 from special interest backers since the bill was approved, told the Associated Press that he was disappointed cable rates haven't dropped.

So are we all.

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