WASHINGTON – Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey sent a letter to federal regulators today urging them to approve the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, saying the deal would benefit consumers.
"While we appreciate your commitment to a full, thorough review, we urge the Commission to act as quickly as possible," Casey, a Democrat, and Toomey, a Republican, wrote to Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler. "We believe the merger between Comcast and Time Warner will produce extensive benefits to the public in terms of jobs and services for low-income households."
The two lawmakers added that "Comcast has informed us that the proposed merger will produce substantial benefits for the public, and that the company has acted proactively to prevent anti-competitive effect." They conclude, "we urge the FCC to approve the merger as quickly as possible."
Casey and Toomey have long been supporters of the Philadelphia-based Comcast – the nation's largest cable and internet provider. They cheered the proposed merger when it was first announced in February and sent the FCC a similar joint letter in 2011 urging approval of Comcast's last big deal, its purchase of NBC-Universal.
The two have often pointed to the jobs Comcast provides nationally – 136,000, according to their letter – and within Pennsylvania: nearly 12,000.
They are also among the many lawmakers who receive substantial campaign donations from Comcast. In 2012, when Casey was last up for re-election, he received $73,775 from the Center City company and its employees, most of any federal candidate besides the two running for president that year, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
UPDATED: Toomey has received $70,600 in donations to his campaign and leadership PAC from Comcast or its workers over the past two years, according to the Center. He is just now entering his re-election cycle.
Aides to the two lawmakers have said their support is about the benefits Comcast provides for Pennsylvania, and is not influenced by donations.
Comcast critics have taken aim at the company's influence on Capitol Hill.
"That we are even debating whether to allow America's largest cable provider to buy its largest competitor is a testament to the inexcusable levels of influence that big money wields in our political process," wrote Todd O'Boyle, a spokesman for Common Cause, one of the many public interest groups who have formed the "Stop Mega Comcast" coalition.
"There is absolutely nothing in this proposed merger that benefits the public interest. It's time for policymakers in Washington to say no to more media monopolization," O'Boyle wrote in an e-mail.
Critics worry about the power of a single company gaining an even larger share of the cable and internet subscribers, and becoming the dominant player in even more of the nation's largest media markets.
Comcast has said the deal will not affect competition, because its markets do not overlap with Time Warner's.
Toomey and Casey echoed that argument and many others offered by Comcast executives. They said the deal would allow for new investments that will benefit Time Warner subscribers, provide faster internet speeds and create jobs. And they praised Comcast's "record as an outstanding corporate citizen" pointing to the company's charitable foundation, support of the Boys and Girls Club of America and "Internet Essentials" program that offers internet services to low-income families.