WI: 47 lobbyists work cable-franchise bill

Posted on March 26, 2007 - 10:57pm.

Note: This is just a small example of the political weight a 260 billion dollar company can throw around in a state legislature. Texas set the standard in 2005 when AT&T and Verizon had one lobbyist for each state legislator. This isn't so much politics as a corporate takeover.

from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

47 lobbyists work cable-franchise bill

MONDAY, March 26, 2007, 3:23 p.m.
By Steven Walters

Madison - The first full-employment bill for lobbyists to emerge in new legislative session is AB 207, which would repeal current law that allows local governments to grant cable franchises to cable operators.

Instead, the bill would let cable operators register directly with the state Department of Financial Institutions, which would have to issue them permits within a specified period of time. The cable operators could not be charged more than 5% by the local government , which is less than many local governments now charge.

The fight has attracted groups with 47 registered lobbyists, according to the state Ethics Board. They range from the 15 power brokers hired by AT&T to the one lobbyist each for four groups, including the Citizens Utility Board and Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

AT&T's muscle includes one former aide to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, three former aides to Republican ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson and three aides to two former Republican leaders of the Legislature. Also pushing for the bill, but serving different masters, is former Senate Majority Leader Joe Strohl, another Democrat. It's much lonelier on the other side, where opponents are led by lobbyists for cities, villages and towns.

Democratic Rep. Gary Hebl of Sun Prairie has launched a crusade to change key parts of the bill, saying it would wipe out consumer protections that now require cable companies to make repairs within 72 hours, credit subscribers for outages longer than four hours, and give a 30-day notice of a rate increase.

The two sponsors of the bill, Republican Rep. Phil Montgomery of Ashwaubenon and Democratic Sen. Jeff Plale of South Milwaukee, will drop the flag on the race to pass the bill at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Committees they chair will hold a joint public hearing in Room 412 East of the Capitol.

( categories: AT&T | State Franchises | WISCONSIN )