Following news of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, key members of Congress promised to take a close look at the merger. Some, like Senator Al Franken, sharply criticized the deal and what it would mean for consumers. Senator Amy Klobuchar, the chair of the antitrust subcommittee, announced plans for a hearing to “scrutinize the details of this merger and its potential consequences for both consumers and competition.”
All it took to reassure Senator Chuck Schumer that the deal was a good thing was a quick phone call over to Comcast executives, who were happy to offer vague assurances about continued jobs commitments in New York State.
Schumer is a member of the Senate Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, like Franken and Klobuchar, but made no mention of antitrust or consumer issues in a lengthy press release announcing that he had spoken to Comcast executives.
His assurances about the deal are interesting in light of the fact that one of the key attorneys involved is his younger brother, Robert Schumer. The younger Schumer led Paul, Weiss. Rifkind’s work for Time Warner Cable in connection with the potential sale. The American Lawyer named Schumer Dealmaker of the Week for his work. The article did not mention that Schumer’s older brother is a US Senator, but noted that he and his team had anticipated and prepared for regulatory obstacles:
As to what is likely to be an arduous path to regulatory approval, Schumer says his team pushed for a deal that anticipated the hurdles ahead. “We obviously had to be confident that we believed the deal could get done,” he says. “There were significant negotiations around the contract terms involving the regulatory approvals, but obviously we were very comfortable with it.”
It seems likely, based on his public statements so far, that Chuck Schumer will not be one of these “hurdles,” though that may have more to do with his tendency to go to bat for Wall Street and big corporations than his relationship with his brother. He received more contributions from Time Warner Cable during his 2010 re-election campaign than any other Senator, according to Open Secrets, and was fifth on Comcast’s list. These amounts were relatively small compared to Schumer’s fundraising haul from attorneys at his brother’s firm, which topped his donor list with contributions of $145,550 – nearly triple what the firm gave to any other member of Congress.
The Schumer brothers seem to be on good terms. This picture shows them and their families posing together at Chuck’s swearing-in in 2011. Bob donates large sums to Democrats, including his brother. Politico tried to gin up some family drama in 2012 with an article on Bob donating $1000 to Mitch McConnell. A source said he made the donation for “client-relationship purposes,” but was otherwise a committed Democratic donor.
Chuck Schumer will not be the Comcast-Time Warner Cable team’s only friend in government. Several antitrust officials in the Obama administration have Comcast ties, as Republic Report has noted. And there are significant Obama bundlers and donors and former regulatory officials on both sides of the deal. The cable giants’ merger is not a done deal yet, but the ongoing merger between big business and government should ease the path toward regulatory approval.
Update, 1/18/2014: Schumer has recused himself from further consideration of the Comcast deal. Read more here.