Ethics Debate: Comcast Ghostwrites Politicians’ Pro-Merger Letters

Yet another reason why people hate Comcast

Here’s a good topic for an ethics debate: a Verge exclusive posted on Monday afternoon revealed that letters mailed to the FCC from various politicians around the country to support Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable were written by the company’s internal PR team.

Comcast called the letter campaign an “outpouring of thoughtful and positive comments,” and they would know because they prepared almost all the comments themselves.

Comcast spokespeople forwarded the letters to state politicians throughout the U.S. and turned them over to a former FCC employee for some fine-tuning; the documents obtained by the Verge are well worth a read.

Of course, the politicians supporting the merger have also received generous contributions from Comcast. Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown explained why she signed the prepared letter (to which she added “40 empty words”) to Oregon Live via her spokesperson, who said:

“This was the most expedient way to accomplish something she had verbally committed to doing.”

So she might as well be acting as a lobbyist.

The fact that these letters came from both Republicans and Democrats demonstrate that this is a bipartisan problem. The Center for Public Integrity’s recent report on PR as the new lobbying also revealed that this is the very sort of thing average Americans think of when they hear the phrase “public relations.”

A YouGov survey reported in The Huffington Post back in November held that the poor reputations of the two companies involved in this merger are “pulling down the entire industry’s reputation”; last Fall, the company appointed a new VP of customer experience who wrote in a blog post covered by The Verge — of all places — that the process of repairing that reputation “may take a few years.”

She was right, and the company OBVIOUSLY has yet to learn its lesson…but the ethics problems exposed by this reveal go far deeper than any sales rep calling a customer “a$$hole.”

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: January 29, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT