Buttering Up: Comcast and Time Warner Sponsor Swank Dinner For FCC Commissioner

Cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable (TWC) are sponsoring this year's annual dinner for the Walter Kaitz Foundation, which is being held in honor of Mignon Clyburn, head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Clyburn is to receive a special "diversity advocate" award at the event, with Comcast donating $110,000 to the foundation that supports diversity. Normally something like this wouldn't raise an eyebrow, but it just so happens that Comcast needs the FCC approval before it can acquire TWC in a deal worth around $45.2 billion.

TWC already donated $22,000 back on May 14, and while making donations doesn't break any rules, the timing is a little suspicious. Nevertheless, Comcast and TWC insist there's nothing underhanded taking place, and both companies say they've been supporting the foundation for several years.

Carrie Levine, research director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, called the timing "curious" and said it "doesn't look so good."

Mignon Clyburn

"We absolutely dispute the notion that our contributions have anything to do with currying favor with Commissioner Clyburn or any honoree," a Comcast spokeswoman said in a statement. "Such claims are insulting and not supported by any evidence. They are purely fiction. We have supported the organization year in and year out regardless of who the dinner honorees have been."

A spokesman for TWC issued a similar statement, adding that "the honoree was not a consideration for us as one of many companies that supported the dinner."

Comcast's deal with TWC is currently under review by regulators. Should the deal be approved, Comcast would be in control of 40 percent of the broadband market in the U.S. and be home to 30 percent of pay-TV subscribers.