WI: State Reps Rolling In AT$T Cash

Posted on April 5, 2007 - 2:32pm.

from: The Capital Times

State Reps Rolling In At&t Cash

Dollars Go To Backers Of Controversial Bill

The Capital Times :: METRO :: C1
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Judith Davidoff The Capital Times

AT&T officials significantly increased their donations to the author of a controversial video licensing bill the year the proposal was being developed, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The Madison-based political watchdog group found that AT&T employees or political action committees gave Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Green Bay, seven times more money in 2006 than they had from 1998 to 2005 -- $2,250 last year compared to $300 total for the preceding seven years.

Similarly, Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, saw a spike in his contributions from AT&T last year. Huebsch, who received just $800 from the telecommunications giant from 1998 through 2005, took in $1,225 from AT&T in 2006.

The bill would essentially deregulate the cable television industry and allow AT&T and other large telecoms to offer video services.

AT&T has 15 lobbyists registered with the state Ethics Board and is actively backing Assembly Bill 207 and its Senate companion, Senate Bill 107.

Mike McCabe of the WDC said he has seen similar patterns of giving from special interest groups who desire to pre-empt the authority of local officials.

"The interest groups have little interest in giving, but all of a sudden when they want something from the Legislature they become active givers," he said.

Critics say the bill would mean the loss of thousands of dollars to municipalities, who currently receive franchise fees from cable providers.

McCabe acknowledged the campaign contributions from AT&T were not huge, but said it doesn't take hundreds of thousands of dollars to get one legislator to pay attention and agree to sponsor a bill among hundreds of competing bills.

Montgomery is out of the office this week and could not be reached for comment, aide Adam Raschka said. Raschka, who helped draft the bill, said he couldn't answer any questions related to AT&T contributions because he was not privy to anything related to his boss's campaign work.

Huebsch did not return phone calls for comment and his aide Bob Delaporte said he could not comment on anything campaign-related.

Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, the sponsor of the Senate bill, had not received significant amounts of money from AT&T, said Mike Buelow, research coordinator for the WDC.

E-mail: jdavidoff@madison.com

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