AT&T's dereg lobbying in Tennessee tops $523,000

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AT&T spent more than a half million dollars and used at least 20 lobbyists to convince Tennessee lawmakers deregulating basic telephone service in the Volunteer State was a good idea. The bill passed May 8, and it did away with the bulk of telephone rate pricing controls in the state, except for basic service in rural areas.

AT&T told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the bill removed "outdated rules and process that have applied only to AT&T," and said the lobbying effort "applied reasonable resources to advocate for policies that will help AT&T compete on a more level playing field with our competitors."

The newspaper said AT&T may have spent well more than the $523,000 to $623,000 it reported to the Tennessee Ethics Commission for the six-month period that ended March 31. The bill was in play for an additional two months, and more expenditures from that time may surface.

Where'd the cash go? AT&T reported:

  • $300,000 to $350,000 was spent on 20 lobbyists who worked on the state Representatives and 33 state Senators;
  • $200,000 to $250,000 went for a variety of lobbying-related expenses;
  • $23,000 went to a Nashville reception for lawmakers that included "live jazz, open bar and heavy hors d'oeuvres."

AT&T wasn't alone in spending on the dereg battle, though. The Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association--which initially opposed the bill--spent $158,623 to $218,622 and employed five lobbyists during the same period, while Comcast spent as much as $110,000 and had one hired gun working the battle.

For more:
- See this Chattanooga Times Free Press article

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