Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable isn't without its critics, as epitomized by a coalition called Stop Mega Comcast, which warns that the merger "threatens competition" and will give too much market share of cable TV and Internet to one company. But dozens of companies and firms are also lending their support to the merger, and many of these advocates also happen to be financial beneficiaries of Comcast, according to a report in The New York Times.
Some of the supporters received money as a charitable contribution, while others gained funding through corporate support or a political contribution. Letters of support for the merger have come from employees of Americans for Tax Reform, the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Policy Innovation, all of which have been beneficiaries of Comcast or its trade association, according to the report.
Comcast has been posting its letters of support, such as one from the National Urban League, which is also listed as receiving support from Comcast's foundation in 2013. The group's August letter outlined how Comcast has worked to expand diversity in programming and its employment, and urged the Federal Communications Commission to approve the cable merger.
Comcast has "reached out to elected officials, community leaders, business groups, and others across the country to detail the public interest benefits" such as faster Internet speeds that the company says the merger will deliver," Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice wrote to CBS MoneyWatch in an email.
"When such leaders say they'd like to support our transaction in public filings, we've provided them with information on the transaction," she noted.
One group is claiming that Comcast went so far as to ghostwrite the letters of support that were sent to the FCC. Liberal advocacy group Common Cause wrote to the FCC that Comcast "authored" many of the filings of support, while its supporters made small modifications to personalize the documents. The letters "are ultimately decided upon by the filers, not Comcast," Fitzmaurice said.
Comcast also noted that organizations that have received its support in the past have "come out against the transaction."
A lot of money and ambition is stake for Comcast. The proposed merger has already taken much longer to wind through the regulatory process than Comcast had originally predicted when it announced the deal more than a year ago. While the company had earlier expected the merger to close in early 2015, it said last month that it's now banking on mid-year.
"We continue to believe this transaction is in the public interest and approvable," Fitzmaurice wrote, adding that Comcast expects the regulatory reviews to end around mid-year.
After the Justice Department and the FCC complete their review of the proposed deal, they'll vote on whether to give regulatory approval. But investors have grown increasingly worried about the likelihood of receiving the green light or the possibility regulators might ask for big concessions from Comcast.
In the meantime, plenty of consumers and companies have lodged criticisms about the merger, such as streaming video service Netflix (NFLX). Last August it asked the FCC to deny the merger because, in its view, the combined company "would have the incentive and ability ... to harm" companies it considers competitors.
Consumers have also given their two cents to the FCC, with many raising concerns about concentration of power and already poor customer service. Noted one California resident last month: "As it is both of these companies have the worst customer service in the international business community and it appears their only strategy is to get so big that customer service does not matter."