The Federal Communications Commission has been flooded with more than 10,000 public comments for or against AT&T's controversial proposal to buy T-Mobile — some of them from small church and charitable groups that have received donations from AT&T, the Center for Public Integrity reported Monday.
The acquisition, which would join two of the country's four largest wireless carries, is drawing intense opposition from public interest groups who say it would reduce competition in the fiercely competitive wireless communications sector. The Justice Department is joining Sprint an antitrust lawsuit to block the purchase.
That hasn't stopped people like the Rev. R. Henry Martin, director the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission in Louisiana, from writing the FCC to urge it to approve the sale, arguing that it would extend the availability of wireless broadband service to more small and impoverished communities.
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization, reports that Martin's letter failed to note that his organization had received a $50,000 donation from AT&T this year, making it one of “at least two dozen charities that were recipients of AT&T's largesse and have written in support of the T-Mobile buyout, which will cut the number of national wireless companies from four to three,” it said.
Other such groups include a Dollars-for-Scholars program near New Orleans, an agency that helps special-needs adults find work in Michigan and a Habitat for Humanity chapter in South Carolina, CPI reported. Some are so small that they have only a single staff member.
CPI quotes Craig Holman, a lobbyist with the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, as saying the donations take “influence peddling to a whole new level."
AT&T didn't respond to requests for comment.
Read the full CPI report: Charities supporting AT&T's buyout of T-Mobile have financial incentive