Want to know why Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable has any chance of passing despite huge opposition from even the company’s own customers, look no further than emails recently uncovered by MuckRock that show Comcast execs have a very friendly relationship with an attorney at the Department of Justice’s antitrust division.
Among other things, the emails show that earlier this year, Comcast invited Deputy Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse to attend a party to celebrate the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics, an invitation that Hesse regretfully declined because the “rules folks” at the DOJ would likely object. Hesse did say that the event sounded “delightful” and “fun,” however, and told Comcast senior vice president of regulatory affairs Kathryn Zachem that she’d still love to go out to dinner with her sometime this year.
Zachem responded and said that she thought the invite to the Olympics party would have been OK since Comcast hadn’t yet formally filed any paperwork on its TWC merger proposal. She did vow to Renata that she would take her up on that dinner offer, however, and promised to get it scheduled. In a followup email, Hesse once again expressed her regrets at not being able to attend Comcast’s grand Olympics bash.
“Our ethics rules are very restrictive,” she wrote. “I was hoping I could do it since it sounds like so much fun, but alas.”
Of course, this exchange came less than one month before Comcast did formally announce its merger with TWC, so it’s not as though Comcast’s plan to buy the company was in its infancy when it invited Hesse to its swank party.
To be clear, Hesse did nothing wrong here, although this does illustrate the way Comcast uses its power and money to establish cozy relationships with the people who are supposed to be regulating it. We learned earlier this year that Comcast has also assembled one of the largest lobbying teams ever consisting of a whopping 40 different lobbying firms whose sole purpose is to push lawmakers and regulators to do its bidding. And this is the single biggest reason why the government might actually sign off on a merger between the two most hated companies in the United States despite public opposition.
Be sure to check out MuckRock’s full collection of unearthed emails by clicking the source link below.