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Watchdogs Seek Kerry’s Support

Feb 23, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Watchdog groups that oppose big media mergers are trying to enlist Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the leading Democratic presidential candidate, in their efforts to stall or stop Comcast’s proposed acquisition of The Walt Disney Co.
However, sources said that as of late last week, Sen. Kerry’s support for their efforts was unclear because of his long record of support for the cable TV industry.
Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog Center for Digital Democracy, a group leading the charge against Comcast, said the center hopes to find a natural ally in Sen. Kerry, who opposed a controversial Federal Communications Commission decision last year to relax major media ownership rules. Mr. Chester said they hoped to make to make “the Comcast grab of Disney” a presidential campaign issue.
The rules at issue last year applied only to broadcast station and newspaper ownership, not cable TV.
Sen. Kerry has a history of supporting the cable TV industry. He is remembered by anti-consolidation activists for promoting an effort to blunt rate regulation for the cable TV industry in the 1992 cable TV act-even though he supported the cable act after his amendment was defeated.
“In 1992 he was less firm than consumer groups would have liked him to have been,” said Andrew Schwartzman, president of the activist Media Access Project.
Those activists also point to the media associations of Sen. Kerry’s younger brother, Cameron Kerry, as an indication of his intentions. Cameron Kerry is an attorney for the Boston-based law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, which represents a number of major cable TV industry clients, including Cablevision and National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
According to the watchdog Center for Responsive Politics, major contributors to Sen. Kerry’s presidential campaign include Mintz Levin, which has given $64,740, and Time Warner, a major cable operator, which has given $32,225.
Said Mr. Schwartzman: “Has Kerry been more receptive to the cable industry than most Democrats? The answer is yes.”
Representatives of Sen. Kerry’s campaign had not returned telephone calls on the Comcast issue last week. Also declining to return calls were Cameron Kerry and other Mintz Levin representatives.