About 50 demonstrators disrupted Comcast Corp.'s annual shareholders meeting Thursday, chanting, "We are the 99 percent," and protesting what they contended was Comcast's use of tax loopholes and its membership in the Washington group American Legislative Exchange Council.
The protest was organized by Fight for Philly, a left-leaning community group. After saying their piece, the demonstrators left.
Other speakers at the 90-minute session at the Convention Center said Comcast was engaged in anti-union labor practices in Chicago and criticized MSNBC's prime-time talk-show hosts, with one shareholder calling them "hate mongers and smear merchants."
Comcast, the nation's largest cable distributor and a major media company, controls cable network MSNBC through NBCUniversal, which it owns in a joint venture with General Electric.
Jess Burgan, a spokeswoman for Fight for Philly, said the "We are the 99 percent" chant referred to how the group advocates for average Americans.
Anne Gemmell, political director for Fight for Philly, said Comcast should quit its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, whose website says it supports limited government, free markets, and federalism.
ALEC, as the group is known, has been targeted by organizations around the country, and several large corporations, among them Wal-Mart, have suspended their membership.
"Do you want to be worse than Walmart?" Gemmell asked Comcast's executives and directors.
Critics say that the group influences legislation in state capitals, and that it has strayed from economic issues by supporting voter-ID rules and the "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law.
David Cohen, Comcast executive vice president, said the company belongs to the American Legislative Exchange Council for its work related to telecommunications issues.
Other speakers at the shareholders meeting contended that Comcast was taking advantage of tax loopholes by incorporating subsidiaries in Delaware to avoid Pennsylvania taxes, which they connected to revenue shortfalls and Philadelphia school closings.
Comcast has Delaware subsidiaries but does "not to a significant extent" use them to avoid paying taxes, Cohen said. The company paid about $300 million in state and local taxes and fees in 2011, he said, making it one of Pennsylvania's largest corporate taxpayers.
In a separate matter, Cohen said Comcast has received government inquiries over its hiring of Meredith Attwell Baker, a former commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission, in 2011 after the FCC approved Comcast's deal for NBCUniversal. Baker, a Republican commissioner, voted to approve the multibillion-dollar deal.
Cohen said there have been no subpoenas related to the inquiries.