How the Political Sausage Gets Made: Clinton Op-Ed Might’ve Named Names

Turns out there was an interesting backstory to now former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s 2015 op-ed vowing tougher antitrust rules and hammering consolidation: The piece could have been tougher and more media-specific.

Multichannel News cited it in a story a couple of weeks back on how a Clinton administration would have approached media regulation. The Wire was unaware of how many cooks had had a hand in the broth.

That regulatory scenario was, of course, mooted by Republican President- elect Donald Trump’s stunning victory despite polls supposedly indicating Clinton, a Democrat, had leads in key battleground states.

But the tale of how that op-ed moved through the process provides a revelatory look at the influences on communications policy positions.

According to one of the Wiki-leaked emails attributed to the account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, an op-ed “on how recent trends in corporate concentration could harm the economy and the middle class” was being shopped to the media Oct. 20, 2015.

On Oct. 20, 2015, posted just such an op-ed from Clinton. It talked about the times when capitalism didn’t work so well.

She said she would address that situation by beefing up antitrust enforcement at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission: “I will direct more resources to hire aggressive regulators who will conduct in-depth industry research to better understand the link between market consolidation and stagnating incomes. Ultimately, this will foster a change in corporate culture that restores competition to the marketplace.”

The piece does not point fingers at individual companies, instead talking about drug companies and oil companies and broadband providers, in the last instance referencing local monopolies in broadband streaming and shopping and homework.

Apparently not getting personal was a decision kicked around by Clinton staffers and an outside political consultant to the Democratic Party.

According to the email string, the consultant asked whether the piece should specifically give the FCC and Justice a shoutout for denying the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, which Comcast abandoned in 2015. One staffer weighed in by saying his girlfriend had “helped block the merger” and asked that she be given credit in Clinton’s piece.

But the ultimate, general, tenor of the piece was captured in the last email on the string late on Oct. 19, 2015, from one of the policy staffers.

“I think we were trying to keep this as a diagnosis of what’s wrong with capitalism systemically, rather than naming specific folks,” he wrote. “Sara and I talked to David Cohen today to give a heads-up — and our sense was we’d get deeper into broadband concentration specifically once we do our technology/innovation agenda, rather than to some extent previewing or pre-empting it here.”

That would appear to be a reference to Comcast senior executive vice president David Cohen, whose name cropped up in other emails about the convention in Philadelphia: Cohen teamed with former Philadelphia Mayor and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (Cohen’s former boss) as a special adviser helping to organize the Democratic National Convention.

Comcast had no comment on the “heads up” reference.”

NAMIC Breakfast Finds a Home

Women in Cable Telecommunications moved its Signature Luncheon to Friday, Jan. 6, during International CES in Las Vegas, and The Cable Center has scheduled The Cable Hall of Fame dinner in Washington, D.C., for April 26, with the venue still to be announced.

Now, another event that would have been held at the canceled 2017 INTX convention in Washington, D.C., has a new home.

NAMIC CEO Eglon Simons told The Wire its annual awards breakfast program — featuring the Next Generation Leaders Awards — will fold into the closing luncheon at the 31st annual NAMIC Conference, scheduled for Sept. 26-27, 2017, as part of Diversity Week in New York City.

The Cable TV Pioneers, meanwhile, are still in talks about where the organization will hold its 2017 dinner, a spokesperson said.

Christians in Communications is still mulling where to hold its annual breakfast in light of INTX’s shutdown, its president, TBN national sales director David Adcock, said. CES “or some of the other shows that are in related fields that we might feel will be a good fit to have our breakfast at” are options, he told The Wire.

— R. Thomas Umstead

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.