Learn more about corporations VOTING to rewrite our laws.
Comcast Corporation, based in Philadelphia, is the largest cable company in the United States, ahead of Time Warner Cable, with more than 24 million subscribers. Comcast develops broadband cable networks and is involved in electronic retailing and television programming content. In 2011, the company formed a joint venture with General Electric that gave it a 51% interest in NBCUniversal (NBCU).
Comcast was founded in 1963 by Ralph J. Roberts, Daniel Aaron, and Julian A. Brodsky. The company was incorporated in Pennsylvania in 1969, under the name Comcast Corporation from American Cable Systems. The company has traded on the NASDAQ since 1972 and are currently offered under the ticker symbols CMCSA and CMCSK.
Comcast bought 25% of Group W Cable in 1986, doubling their size. Two years later, they bought a 50% share in Storer Communications, Inc. They bought the American Cellular Network Corporation the same year before combining with Metrophone in 1990. Comcast became the third largest cable operator in 1994 following their purchase of Maclean Hunter's. Comcast has owned the majority of the electronic retailer QVC since 1995. Following other acquisitions, Microsoft invested $1 billion in Comcast in 1997.
Support for the American Legislative Exchange Council
Michael Wall, Senior Director of State Government Affairs at Comcast, represents Comcast as the State corporate co-chair of Georgia, along with legislative co-chairs Rep. Calvin Hill (R-GA) and Sen. Chip Rogers (R-GA); John Gibbs, Vice President of State Government Affairs at Comcast, represents Comcast as the State corporate co-chair of Minnesota, along with legislative co-chair Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-16B); and Tom Krewson, Director of State Government Relations at Comcast, represents Comcast as the State corporate co-chair of Missouri, along with corporate co-chair Mary Scruggs of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and legislative co-chairs Missouri House Majority Leader Timothy Jones (R-89) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-150); and Steve Proper, Director of Government Affairs at Comcast, represents Comcast as the State corporate co-chair of Utah, along with corporate co-chair Jay Magure of 1-800-Contacts, Inc. and legislative co-chairs Sen. Curt Bramble (R-16) and Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (R-9).
Comcast is also a member of ALEC's Communications and Technology Task Force (represented by John Maher, Comcast's Regional Director State and Federal Relations, Michael Wall, John Gibbs, Ron Orlando, Comcast's Senior Director of Government Affairs, and Mike Rose, another Senior Director of Government Affairs at Comcast) and ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force (represented by Mike Rose and Richard Smotkin, Executive Director of Government Affairs at Comcast).
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Philadelphia Paid Sick Leave
In March 2013, the Philadelphia City Council passed, by an 11 to 6 vote, a paid sick days bill that would have allowed employees without sick leave to earn up to four paid sick days per year. Over 180,000 workers in Philadelphia do not have access to paid sick days and would have benefited from this measure.  However, major opponents of the paid sick leave bill, special interest groups aligned with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), successfully lobbied Mayor Nutter to veto it. The bill died when the council was unable to sway enough nay votes to override the mayoral veto; they needed just one more. These groups, the National Restaurant Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) are all tied to ALEC. The case of Philadelphia was unique in "the participation of telecommunications giant Comcast Corporation, Philadelphia's highest grossing company and an ALEC member." Comcast spent over $108,000 on lobbying, most of which went towards opposition to the paid sick days bill.
More than 40 percent of the work force in the United States cannot take sick days without losing wages or possibly their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Major cities such as Washington DC, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, as well as the state of Connecticut, have put paid sick day laws on the books; New York City will soon follow suit. The initiative is quickly moving to cities across the country "and in each case, the state and local branches of the National Restaurant Association, the NFIB, and the Chamber are actively opposing it" as they did in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was not the first instance where these special interest groups came together to thwart this legislation. City of Milwaukee voters passed a paid sick days referendum with over 70 percent of the vote in 2008 but when Scott Walker became Wisconsin's governor in 2011, the state affiliate of the National Restaurant Association and the local Chamber lobbied Walker to back "a bill to overturn this expression of local democratic will and preempt any local paid sick day ordinance."
Key Comcast State and Local Economic Development Subsidies
In 2005 Comcast received a $43 million state and local subsidy package in connection with its plan to build a new headquarters in downtown Philadelphia.
In recent years Comcast has received $6.8 million in Job Creation Tax Credits and $1.2 million in Customized Job Training assistance. It has also received numerous state research & development tax credits, including $1.4 million in 2008, $1.1 million in 2009, $306,000 in 2010 and $803,000 in 2011.
In 2000 Comcast Business Communications was granted up to $6.5 million in subsidies under the Business Employment Incentive Program (BEIP). As of March 31, 2013, $4.4 million had been disbursed.
In 2001 Comcast of New Jersey II, LLC was granted up to $512,000 in subsidies under the BEIP program. Because recipients used to be able to exceed their grants if they created enough jobs, as of March 31, 2013, $1.5 million had been disbursed. 
NBCUniversal, a majority of which Comcast acquired in 2011 (and is now purchasing the rest) has its own history of subsidy-taking. In 1987 NBC got a $98 million subsidy from New York City after threatening to move its headquarters to New Jersey. The company ended up moving some of its operations, including parts of MSNBC and CNBC, to that state, where in 1999 it was granted up to $4.6 million in BEIP assistance (of which $2.4 million has been disbursed). In 2001 NBC Sports agreed to move its headquarters to Connecticut in exchange for a $20 million subsidy package.
The Universal Orlando theme park in Florida benefits from infrastructure improvements paid through a special taxing district called a Community Redevelopment Area. Since 2010 Universal Orlando has also received some $2.3 million in tax credits under a state program designed to promote job creation in high-crime areas.
Fake news fines
In September 2007, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued two notices of apparent liability, announcing its intention to fine Comcast $4000 for each of its regional cable channel CN8's five undisclosed video news release (VNR) broadcasts documented in the Center for Media and Democracy's "Still Not the News" report for a total of $20,000.
In the first notice, for CN8's broadcast of the Nelson's Rescue Sleep VNR the FCC said that the "extensive images and mentions of the product" triggered the need for VNR disclosure. The second notice was for CN8's broadcast of the General Mills (Wheaties), Trend Micro, Allstate, and General Mills (Bisquick) VNRs. In it, the FCC broadened its explanation for the need for VNR disclosure, saying that "the VNR itself was the 'valuable consideration' provided to CN8." The second notice also faults CN8's broadcast of the four VNRs, saying their promotional content goes far beyond the acceptable "fleeting or transient references to products or brand names."
In response to "questions about why the cable operator appeared at the front of the line of what could be numerous VNR decisions, particularly since a raft of complaints against others had been filed months before the ones against Comcast," FCC Chair Kevin Martin explained that Comcast was the only company that had not agreed to give the FCC more time to investigate the VNR complaints. Broadcasting & Cable quoted Martin as saying, "I believe Comcast had initially told our Enforcement Bureau that they would also agree to a tolling agreement [an extension for FCC investigations]. ... But then they decided they would not. So we were faced with a choice of issuing the NAL [notice of apparent liability] or allowing the time to lapse so we would never be able to take any enforcement action against them. And so, faced with that decision, we decided we would issue an NAL." 
The company spent $9,460,000 for lobbying in 2006. Of this total, $3,960,000 went to 20 outside lobbying firms including Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates, Blank Rome LLP, and DLA Piper. 
Board of Directors
As of April 2013:
- Kenneth J. Bacon
- Sheldon M. Bonovitz
- Joseph J. Collins
- J. Michael Cook
- Gerald L. Hassel
- Jeffrey A. Honickman
- Eduardo G. Mestre
- Brian L. Roberts
- Ralph J. Roberts
- Johnathan A. Rodgers
- Dr. Judith Rodin
Former Directors include:
- Decker Anstrom
- C. Michael Armstrong
- Edward D. Breen
- Julian A. Brodsky
- Joseph L. Castle, II
- Susan Gonzales
- Michael I. Sovern
As of April 2013:
- Brian L. Roberts - Chairman and CEO
- Ralph J. Roberts - Founder and Chairman Emeritus
- Michael J. Angelakis - Vice Chairman and CFO
- Stephen B. Burke - CEO, NBCUniversal and Executive VP, Comcast Corporation
- David L. Cohen - Executive VP
- Neil Smit - President and CEO, Comcast Cable and Executive VP, Comcast Corporation
|Key executives and 2006 pay: ||Options
|Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer||$13,900,000||$19,920,000|
|Ralph J. Roberts, Co-Founder and Director||$4,450,000||$2,750,000|
|John R. Alchin, Co-Chief Financial Officer||$2,620,000||$2,830,000|
|David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President||N/A||N/A|
|Stephen B. Burke, Chief Operating Officer||$8,720,000||$19,040,000|
1 Comcast Center
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Resources and articles
Related SourceWatch articles
- Comcast profile, Hoovers, accessed February 2011.
- Steven Titch ALEC Adopts Model VoIP Bill, Info Tech & Telecom News, Heartland Institute publication, September 2007
- American Legislative Exchange Council, "Solutions for the States," 38th Annual Meeting agenda, on file with CMD, August 3-6, 2011
- American Legislative Exchange Council, American Legislative Exchange Council Telecommunications & Information Technology as of July 18th, 2011, organizational task force membership director, July 18, 2011, p. 22, obtained and released by Common Cause April 2012
- American Legislative Exchange Council, Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee Roster 2, organizational task force membership directory, March 31, 2011, p. 46, obtained and released by Common Cause April 2012
- American Legislative Exchange Council, 2011 Conference Sponsors, conference brochure on file with CMD, August 11, 2011
- Dan Stamm, "Paid Sick Leave Veto Override Falls 1 Vote Short", NBC Philadelphia, April 11, 2013
- Brendan Fischer, "Paid Sick Days Defeat in Philadelphia Followed Familiar Script", PRWatch, April 17, 2013
- Natalie Kostelni, “Controversial skyscraper will be built in downtown Philadelphia”, Philadephia Business Journal, January 5, 2005
- [value=&field_subsidy_type_value_many_to_one=All&date_filter[value][year]=&field_subsidy_state_value_many_to_one=PA&field_subsidy_program_value=&field_subsidy_agency_value=&field_subsidy_city_value=&field_subsidy_county_value Comcast Corporation Subsidies in Pennsylvania], GoodJobsFirst.org, accessed April 2013
- Comcast Business Communications, LLC et. al. BEIP subsidy, GoodJobsFirst.org, accessed April 2013
- Comcast of New Jersey II, LLC BEIP subsidy, GoodJobsFirst.org, accessed April 2013
- Comcast of Connecticut, Inc. Urban and Industrial Site Reinvestment Credit, GoodJobsFirst.org, accessed April 2013
- Comcast of Connecticut, Inc. Manufacturing Assistance Act grant, GoodJobsFirst.org, accessed April 2013
- Comcast of Maryland, Inc. Maryland Industrial Training Program, GoodJobsFirst.org, accessed April 2013
- Comcast of Maryland, Inc. MEDAFF-2 grant, GoodJobsFirst.org, accessed April 2013
- NBC Universal, Inc.; CNBC,Inc.; CNBC.com, LLC BEIP grant, GoodJobsFirst.org, accessed April 2013
- Mara Lee, “NBC Adding 450 Jobs, with Possibility of More,” Hartford Courant, October 26, 2011.
- Mark Schlueb, “Taxpayers would build $4.5M Universal bridge,” Orlando Sentinel, February 14, 2013.
- Megan Anderson, “Universal claims $2.3M in tax credits since 2010: report,” Orlando Business Journal, February 4, 2013.
- Diane Farsetta, "Still Not the News: Stations Overwhelmingly Fail to Disclose VNRs", PRWatch, November 3, 2006.
- Diane Farsetta, "Four More Fines for Fake News: FCC Says VNRs Are "'Valuable Consideration'", PRWatch, October 1, 2007.
- Daniel Price, "Two Newsrooms Sleep as 'Hard Sell' VNR Airs", PRWatch, October 17, 2006
- Comcast Corporation Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, Federal Communications Commission, September 21, 2007
- Daniel Price, "Bowls and Balls: Football's Flutie a Wheaties Flunky", PRWatch, October 25, 2006
- Daniel Price, "Yes, But Can It Protect You From Fake News? Comcast Station Goes All Out To Push Laptop Security Software, PRWatch, October 28, 2006
- Daniel Price "Allstate in Good Hands with VNR-Friendly News Team", PRWatch, October 29, 2006
- Daniel Price, "News Flash: Art Fennell Loves Pancakes. For Bisquick's Birthday, CN8 Gives Away Its Viewers", PRWatch, October 27, 2006
- Comcast Corporation Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, Federal Communications Commission, September 26, 2007
- John Eggerton, "Martin Defends Comcast Place at Head of VNR Fine Line: Comcast Wouldn't Agree to 'Tolling Agreement' to Give FCC More Time," Broadcasting & Cable, October 2, 2007.
- Bush Ranger Stephen B. Burke, Texans for Public Justice, accessed October 2007.
- 2006 PAC Summary Data, Open Secrets, accessed October 2007.
- Comcast lobbying expenses, Open Secrets, accessed October 2007.
- Comcast, "Board of Directors", organizational website, accessed April 30, 2013
- Board of Directors, Comcast, accessed October 2007.
- Comcast, "Corporate Executives", organizational website, accessed April 30, 2013
- Comcast Key Executives, Yahoo Finance, accessed October 2007.
- Ken Belson, New Subscribers Help Comcast More Than Triple Its Profit, New York Times, April 28, 2006.
- Jonathan D. Salant, "GM, Comcast, Pfizer Boost Political Giving, Skirt Federal Ban", Bloomberg, February 21, 2006.
- "FCC Proposes 'Fake News' Fine," Associated Press, September 24, 2007.
- Matthew Lasar, "FCC hits Comcast with fake news fine," Lasar's Letter on the FCC, September 24, 2007.
- Jeff Gelles, "FCC fines Comcast over video news release," The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 25, 2007.
- Tonya Garcia, "FCC fines Comcast for airing VNR," PR Week, September 25, 2007.
- "Comcast, D S Simon Named in VNR Notice," O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub req'd), September 25, 2007.
- Brooks Boliek, "FCC urges fine for Comcast: VNR was aired as part of newscast," Hollywood Reporter, September 25, 2007.
- Ellen Gray, "CN8 to fight fine for promo use," The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 26, 2007.
- John Eggerton, "FCC’s VNR Fine: More to Come? Levy against Comcast for unidentified video news release could be start of get-tough policy," Broadcasting & Cable, October 1, 2007.
- John Eggerton, "FCC: Free, Noncontroversial VNRs Can Still Trigger Fines: Comcast Faces Four More FCC Fines, Totaling $16,000," Broadcasting & Cable, October 1, 2007.
- Kara Rowland, "FCC fines use of VNRs," Washington Times, October 3, 2007.
- Thomas Ginsberg, "Comcast didn't play ball with FCC?," PhillyInc.biz, the Philadelphia Inquirer business blog, October 3, 2007.
- Miriam Hill, "FCC rules could stunt Comcast's growth: The agency, calling some cable firms dominant, may offer changes soon," Philadelphia Inquirer, November 11, 2007.
- Cecilia Kang, "Comcast Defends Role As Internet Traffic Cop," Washington Post, February 13, 2008.