The Philadelphia Inquirer has published a report saying that 15 members of the 18-seat Pennsylvania delegation to the House of Representatives signed a letter back in May supporting the merger between Comcast and NBCU. Nothing unusual about that – except this letter was written by Comcast lobbyist David Urban, who used to be on the staff of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA).
Most of the politicians in the states most directly affected by this merger seem to be in favor of it – the governors of Pennsylvania, where Comcast is HQ’d, and California and New York, where NBCU has major hubs, have all come out in favor.
The Inquirer said that the move seemed like a “raw display of Comcast’s political clout,” and business watchdog Consumers Union told the paper that it was not at all unusual and represented a troubling trend.
Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA) put the letter into the FCC’s public record, and his chief of staff Stanley White said the authorship of the letter was no big deal. “It wasn’t like a corporate titan was sitting around pulling our strings. It’s not that we did their bidding. We decided we would support them. Wouldn’t it be congressional malpractice to not help a major employer and taxpayer?”
RBR-TVBR observation: There IS nothing unusual about this. It’s not who wrote the letter, it’s what’s IN the letter that counts, and the practice of writing a letter for somebody else to sign is a fact of life in private business as well as in the government sector.
This writer has been called on many times to write one thing or another for a higher-up executive’s signature — it’s actually a sign of trust and an acknowledgement of the writer’s grasp of the issue at hand. Usually, the reason for the request is that the topic of the piece is in the writer’s area of corporate expertise.
The exec providing the signature is free to make edits and decide whether to sign it or fold it into a paper airplane and fly it into the nearest secure dumpster.
And the exec can set boundaries. One time, when the addressee of a letter was a person who shared the first name of famous Disney animated movie character, this writer was advised in no uncertain terms not to begin the letter with the words “Deer Bambi.”