WashPost Hails Comcast/NBC Chief Lobbyist (and Obama Bundler) as 'Wonk Rock Star'

Tuesday’s front-page of The Washington Post offered a positive profile of Comcast’s chief lobbyist (and Democrat) David Cohen, the “wonk rock star.”

The story’s central idea was the notion that Cohen’s offering of a low-income Internet service was a crucial part of Obama’s FCC approving Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal....as if the massive campaign cash for Democrats didn’t help seal the deal. Kang began:

In fall 2009, Comcast planned to launch an Internet service for the poor that was sure to impress federal regulators. But David Cohen, the company’s chief of lobbying, told the staff to wait.

At the time, Comcast was planning a controversial $30 billion bid to take over NBC Universal, and Cohen needed a bargaining chip for government negotiations.

The strategy was quintessential Cohen. The hard-charging 56-year-old veteran of Philadelphia politics and Democratic campaign bundler is Comcast’s chief dealmaker in Washington.

The story ended on the same theme:

One of those solutions was to offer the low-income Internet service just when Comcast wanted to buy NBC Universal.

The initiative may not have sealed the FCC’s decision to approve the NBC merger. But it helped, Cohen said.

The proposal clearly captured the fancy of regulators. Late last month, Genachowski, the FCC chairman, touted the program, seemingly claiming some credit for its creation.

“This particular program came from our reviewing of the Comcast NBC-U transaction,” Genachowski said in a speech. “Comcast embraced it as good for the country, as well as good for business. And I’m fine with that.”

This was Kang’s “rock star” mention, that “in the rarified circles of Washington, with his vast network of high-powered contacts, Cohen enjoys rock-star status.” Here's more puffy prose:

His appeal comes from an ease with government bureaucracy, say his friends and even his critics. Cohen is a policy and political wonk with a voracious appetite for white papers and data on arcane telecommunications regulations. Pole attachments, retransmission consent and program-access terrestrial loopholes are jumbles of FCC jargon to most, but that’s Cohen’s language of love.

The only Comcast critics in Kang’s article were leftist advocates like Free Press (and by extension, a Comcast-funded liberal group called Reel Grrls). There was no space for the Parents Television Council or conservative critics who might not be fond of Obama’s FCC.

The MRC certainly would have suggested that NBC Universal has been incredibly generous to Obama in "giving at the office" by offering its own air time across multiple platforms, including the recent one-two puff of the president appearing on Jay Leno's show and with NBC anchor Brian Williams across several days of "news" programming. Kang briefly mentions some of the ka-ching:

In June 2011, Cohen and his wife, Rhonda, hosted a campaign fundraiser for President Obama at their sprawling Philadelphia home, raising an estimated $1.2 million. Amid 120 high-paying donors, Obama thanked the Cohens, whom he called “great friends.” The Cohens have contributed $877,000 of their own money to various political campaigns in the past decade. Comcast as a company has doled out $3.3 million this year to congressional campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

There are even rumors that Cohen could be tapped for a top White House role if Obama is reelected.

Comcast isn't about to be questioned by the liberal media despite its lavish lobbying:

Cohen benefits from Comcast’s willingness to spend lavishly to get federal officials to see things the firm’s way.

The company’s growth has been mirrored in Washington, where Cohen has multiplied his staff to 20 full-time lobbyists and policy experts and dozens of outside lobbyists. Comcast spent $8.3 million on lobbying last year, putting it in ninth place for K Street spending, above Verizon, Lockheed Martin and Royal Dutch Shell, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But when lobbyists are pushing for  Obama, or as liberals see it, "social justice" or the "public interest," then lobbying is seen as laudable philanthropy, not corporate greed.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis