On the eve of the FCC's pending ruling on the Comcast/Time Warner merger, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has taken some time to graciously accept an award at an annual industry dinner. A dinner that Comcast donated $110,000 to. And a dinner that they were definitely not using to sway the FCC's vote at all no sir not in the slightest.
Initially reported by Politico, Comcast's hefty donation put them at the "presenting sponsor" level at the Walter Kataz Foundation dinner, while Time Warner cable paid up a smaller (yet still sizable) $22,000. Commissioner Clyburn, who was accepting the diversity advocate award, "sought and obtained the requisite ethics approval" before agreeing to attend. But considering the timing of Comcast's donation, it's hard not to raise an eyebrow. Or two.
Comcast, however, is downright offended that you would even imply such a thing, telling Politico:
We absolutely dispute the notion that our contributions have anything to do with currying favor with Commissioner Clyburn or any honoree. Such claims are insulting and not supported by any evidence. They are purely fiction. We have supported the organization year in and year out regardless of who the dinner honorees have been.
Making things all the more fishy, as Politico points out, is the fact that in the foundation's 30+ years, this is the first time that an FCC commissioner has been honored. Honorees are chosen by the dinner committee, and—wouldn't you know it—Comcast CEO Brian Roberts just so happens to be on that very same committee. Small world.
Still, there is always the chance that this is nothing more than a (un)happy—depending on where your loyalties lie—coincidence. But as Carrie Levine, research director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in wrote: "[This] doesn't look good." [Politico via Washington Post]
Update 8/14 6:39pm: While Comcast still denies any attempt at swaying the FCC's merger decision, after some massive backlash, both Comcast and Time Warner have withdrawn their funding.