AT&T employed the ally of Minister of Commerce Gina Raimondo to foyer for Biden's infrastructure proposal
John Stankey, CEO of AT&T.
Mike Segar | Reuters
Telecommunications giant AT&T hired an ally of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to enlist officials on President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan.
A lobbying registration report shows AT&T hired Jon Duffy, president of Rhode Island-based marketing firm Duffy & Shanley, in April. The document, which has not yet been reported, does not say whether he will stand up for congressional lawmakers 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 had never signed up for the lobby until his most recent agreement with AT&T.
The lobbying report says AT&T has hired Duffy to focus on "issues related to broadband and the American employment plan".
Biden's $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes an investment of $ 100 billion to expand broadband access. The Senate Republicans' most recent counteroffer was $ 65 billion for broadband.
The lobbying for the infrastructure takes place at a crucial time for AT&T. The company this month announced a $ 43 billion deal to merge its WarnerMedia division with Discovery.
AT&T has spent just over $ 2.6 million on lobbying spending so far in 2021, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. AT&T lobbyists have worked with the Commerce Department, 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 part of its lobbying would be focused on working towards "an accessible, affordable and sustainable broadband connection".
"During the pandemic, US networks fared much better than other countries," said a company spokesman. "The country's broadband networks have faced the challenge because of policies that have encouraged private sector investment in various technologies and networks. Americans pay less and get more."
Duffy's PR firm already lists AT&T as a customer on its website. Other listed corporate customers 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 was a strong proponent of investing in expanding broadband access.
"We need transformation investments in broadband to ensure that all Americans finally have access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet services. During the pandemic, we saw that high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it is a necessity for jobs and education and health care," Raimondo said at an April hearing before the Senate Funds Committee.
The Department of Commerce's national telecommunications and information administration announced a $ 288 million grant program earlier this month for a broadband infrastructure.