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AT&T employed Commerce Minister Gina Raimondo’s allies to marketing campaign for Biden’s infrastructure proposal

John Stankey, CEO of AT&T

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Telecommunications giant AT&T has hired an ally of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to speak to officials about President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.

A lobbying registration report reveals that AT&T hired Jon Duffy, president of Rhode Island-based marketing firm Duffy & Shanley, in April. The document does not say whether he will lobby congressmen or administrative officials.

Duffy co-chaired Raimondo’s transition team after she was first elected Governor of Rhode Island in 2014. Records show that Duffy never signed up to lobby until his most recent agreement with AT&T.

The lobbying report says AT&T hired Duffy to focus on “issues related to broadband and the American Jobs Plan.”

Biden’s $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes a $ 100 billion investment to expand broadband access. The Republicans’ most recent counteroffer in the Senate was $ 65 billion for broadband.

The infrastructure lobbying comes at a crucial time for AT&T. The company announced this month a $ 43 billion deal to merge its WarnerMedia business with Discovery.

AT&T has so far spent a little more than $ 2.6 million on lobbying spending in 2021, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. AT&T lobbyists have worked with the Department of Commerce, the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President, among others.

In response to questions about Duffy’s recruitment, AT&T told CNBC on Friday that it intends to focus part of its lobbying efforts on “making broadband more accessible, affordable and sustainable”.

“During the pandemic, US networks performed much better than other countries,” said a company spokesman. “The country’s broadband networks have risen to the challenge because of a policy that encouraged private sector investment in multiple technologies and networks. Americans pay less and get more. ”

Duffy’s PR firm already lists AT&T as a customer on its website. Other corporate customers listed are Intel, Dunkin ‘Donuts, Hallmark and Staples. Duffy didn’t respond to a request for comment.

AT&T announced in April a $ 2 billion commitment to make broadband more affordable.

Raimondo has strongly advocated investments in expanding broadband access.

“We need transformative investments in broadband to ensure that all Americans finally have access to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet. During the pandemic, we saw that high-speed broadband services are not a luxury, but a necessity for jobs and education, “and healthcare,” Raimondo said at an April hearing before the Senate Budget Committee.

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration earlier this month announced a $ 288 million grant program for large-scale broadband infrastructure.

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