Telecom Officials Open Wallets For Clinton

Friday, May 4th 2007, 2:54 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hillary Rodham Clinton's fundraising machine is working its magic among employees of the nation's biggest telecommunications companies, despite her support for an industry-unfriendly legislative initiative.

The New York senator and Democratic presidential candidate was the top recipient of funds from employees of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner through the first quarter of 2007. John McCain, who holds a senior position on the Senate committee that oversees the telecom industry, lagged far behind.

Overall, employees of the nation's telecommunications and cable television companies contributed $119,250 to Clinton's campaign. McCain took in $79,300, an analysis of Federal Election Commission records showed.

Clinton and fellow Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois are co-sponsors of a bill that would require large Internet providers to treat all traffic equally. The ``network neutrality'' bill is anathema to AT&T and Verizon, who see it as unnecessary government regulation of their networks.

Early trends show company employees are not afraid to make contributions that may be at odds with their employers' legislative agendas and with the views of top executives.

AT&T Chairman and CEO Edward Whitacre Jr., for example, gave $2,300 to McCain's primary campaign. But his employees ponied up $13,950 to Clinton, $9,500 to Obama and only $5,100 to McCain.

McCain, normally a contribution magnet for telecommunications companies, is a current member and former chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Verizon's support of Clinton is even greater, which makes sense, given the company's position as New York's primary telephone company and Clinton's status as the home-state senator.

Of $59,300 in contributions from Verizon employees, $20,700 went to Clinton, $13,350 went to Obama and $11,750 went to McCain.

Verizon chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg gave $2,300 to Clinton's primary campaign and $2,100 to McCain's.

In the 2004 campaign, Seidenberg became a ``Pioneer'' for President Bush's re-election campaign by raising at least $100,000. Whitacre made the ``Ranger'' list by collecting at least $200,000 for Bush. Peter Davidson, a senior vice president at Verizon, also was a Pioneer. He gave $1,000 to McCain.

Employees of Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable television provider, are especially fond of Clinton, giving her $30,600 out of $64,000 in total contributions.

Brian L. Roberts, Comcast's president and CEO, gave $4,600 to Clinton _ $2,300 for the primary and $2,300 for the general election, the maximum allowed. Comcast Chairman Ralph Roberts also gave $4,600. In addition, he gave $2,300 to McCain.

Among Time Warner Inc.'s contributors was chairman and CEO Richard Parsons, who gave $1,500 to McCain, and Jeffrey L. Bewkes, a board member, president and COO, who gave $4,600 to Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.

Also listed as a contributor is Ted Turner, the former Time Warner vice chairman and broadcast titan, who gave $2,100 to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Among other notable industry contributors was Richard Notebaert, chairman and CEO of Qwest Communications International Inc., who gave $2,300 to McCain and $2,300 to Richardson, a Democrat. Qwest is New Mexico's local phone provider.

Among new media companies, the trend toward Democratic giving is much more pronounced. All of the $17,200 given by Yahoo! Inc. employees went to Democrats, including $4,600 from company CEO Terry Semel to Clinton. Google Inc.'s employees gave 92 percent of their $55,000 in contributions to Democrats.

One exception among Internet executives was at eBay. While the top recipient of employee cash was Obama, company CEO Margaret Whitman gave $2,300 to Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Both she and Romney once worked at Bain and Co.

``We can't know the motivation behind any single contribution,'' said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. ``It may be an economic interest or it may be that they're college buddies. Or it may be about policies on Iraq.''

For example, Scott Ford, president and CEO of Little Rock-based Alltel gave $2,300 to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

An exception involves bundling, something Krumholz calls ``an end run'' around contribution limits. Bundlers such as the Bush Rangers and Pioneers persuade their associates to give money to a candidate and are recognized for their efforts.

Since Congress banned unlimited ``soft money'' contributions from corporate treasuries to the political parties and doubled limits on regulated ``hard money'' given to campaigns by individuals, bundlers have taken on added importance.

As of now, however, with no single candidate dominating the race in either party, givers aren't sure whom to line up behind. Some are hedging their bets by giving to more than one candidate, according to Krumholz. Others are taking a wait-and-see approach.