Comcast’s hiring of a new lobbyist is part of an attempt to “torpedo” President Joe Biden’s nomination of Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission, advocacy group Free Press alleged yesterday.
“Comcast just hired a lobbying firm to try to torpedo Gigi Sohn’s nomination to the FCC. The company clearly knows that Sohn will work for people, not corporations,” Free Press wrote in an email to members. The email asked people to call Commerce Committee Chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D–Wash.) to urge a vote on Sohn’s nomination by the end of January.
Comcast’s newly hired lobbyist is Kirk Adams of Consilium Consulting in Phoenix, Arizona. Adams’ lobbying disclosure, which was filed with Congress on January 6, lists one specific lobbying issue that he expects to work on: “FCC nominations.” An amended version of the lobbying registration filed about 11 hours later deleted “FCC Nominations” and replaced it with “telecommunications policy.”
We asked Comcast if it hired Adams to lobby against the Sohn nomination and why the change was made to the lobbying registration document. “We don’t comment on lobby filings,” a Comcast spokesperson responded. “As you note the firm filed a corrected filing.”
Comcast hasn’t publicly opposed Sohn’s nomination. “Gigi Sohn has been an advocate for consumers for many years and would bring her tireless advocacy on the critical issue of connecting all Americans to broadband back to the FCC. We have long shared that commitment,” Comcast said in October after Biden announced his choice.
Swing vote Sinema may be lobbyist’s target
Politico wrote on Tuesday that Adams has “deep ties to Arizona, a state whose senior senator may hold the key to confirming Gigi Sohn for an open seat at the FCC.” That US senator from Arizona is Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, a member of the Commerce Committee. “Sinema, who has typically aligned more with Republicans and Internet service providers like Comcast over the rest of her party on the issue of net neutrality, has not yet revealed whether she will vote for Sohn,” Politico wrote.
A story in The Hill noted that Adams is a “former Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives.” Adams was Arizona House speaker from 2008 to 2011 and chief of staff to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey from 2015 to 2018.
Politico also pointed out that another newly retained Comcast lobbyist used to work for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Manchin may also be a swing vote if Sohn’s nomination reaches the Senate floor. “Comcast retained Larry Puccio, who was Manchin’s [chief of staff] as governor of West Virginia and has remained close with the swing vote senator, and fellow West Virginia lobbyist Angel Moore, at the end of November, according to a newly filed disclosure,” Politico wrote.
The disclosure for Puccio and Moore lists “telecommunications—broadband deployment and adoption” as their lobbying issues, with no mention of FCC nominations.
FCC’s 2-2 deadlock persists
Sohn’s confirmation would break a 2-2 deadlock between Democrats and Republicans that has persisted throughout Biden’s term as president. Sohn has a long history as a consumer advocate and has faced plenty of opposition from Senate Republicans.
“The Federal Communications Commission has been without a governing majority for the entire Biden administration,” Free Press wrote in its email to members. “That means that the agency hasn’t been able to do things like restore net neutrality and the FCC’s authority over high-speed Internet, begin the process of reckoning with its shameful history on race or repair all of the damage done during the Trump years.”
Biden nominated Sohn on October 26, 2021, and resubmitted the nomination on January 4. A Commerce Committee spokesperson said the committee may vote on Sohn’s nomination during the week of January 24, according to Politico.
A Democratic majority is needed for the FCC “to begin the process of reversing the misguided decisions of the [Ajit] Pai FCC and reasserting its authority over broadband, an essential service that currently lacks any meaningful federal oversight,” a coalition of advocacy groups wrote Tuesday. Those groups are the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press Action, MediaJustice, Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, and United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry.
“For more than a year, the FCC has been operating without a full slate of commissioners, hampering its ability to advance all of the important tasks on its agenda… All of these proceedings need a fully functioning FCC, which means Ms. Sohn needs to be voted out of the Committee this month and moved to the full Senate for a floor vote,” the groups wrote. “The time for these votes is now.”