A group of Quaker investors called Friends Fiduciary have introduced a shareholder motion that was backed by the owners of more than a million Comcast shares, calling on the company to voluntarily disclose its state-level lobbying activities; the company strenuously objects to making such disclosures, calling the measure an "unnecessary burden."
The company falsely stated that "much of this information is already publicly available either through our own filings or those of any trade associations of which we are members" — some (but not all) of the information about federal lobbying is in the public record, but 22 states have no disclosure requirements and generally state disclosures are less comprehensive than federal ones.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts holds 33.3 percent of the voting shares, making it unlikely, but the Friends Fiduciary proposal has gained more support every year, rising from 16.7% in 2017 to 19.1% in 2018 (that's 32% of the outside shareholders).
The Friends Fiduciary proposal argued that more lobbying disclosures are necessary in part because "Comcast's lobbying spending is perceived to go counter to its public statements, a sentiment which has only grown given recent debates over net neutrality." As evidence, the group pointed to a November 2017 Slate article titled "Comcast wants you to think it supports net neutrality while it pushes for net neutrality to be destroyed."
Separately, Comcast should say how much it gives to Broadband for America, a "group which has been subpoenaed by the New York attorney general in the course of an investigation into the potential fraudulence of some of the 22 million comments submitted to the Federal Communication Commission" during the net neutrality repeal proceeding, Friends Fiduciary said. Comcast is a member of the group.
Friends Fiduciary also argued that Comcast's secrecy around lobbying could contribute to the rise of municipal broadband networks that compete against Comcast broadband.
Comcast does so much lobbying that it says disclosing it all is too hard [Jon Brodkin/Ars Technica]
(Image: Daniel X. O'Neil, CC-BY)