Comcast Corp. helped finance a posh “cloakroom” at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland for top federal lawmakers that skirted campaign-finance disclosure rules, according to published reports on Wednesday.
Comcast gave $200,000 for the well-appointed gathering place constructed inside the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice facility for House Speaker Paul Ryan and other powerful Republicans.
Corporate and organization funding to the Friends of the House 2016 LLC appeared to fall outside the public disclosure rule as the group was not a politcal committee but a limited liability company.
Comcast did not comment on Wednesday but noted that it did not contribute other money to the Cleveland political convention. The same story was initially published by the Center for Public Integrity, the Columbus Dispatch, and the Daily Beast.
Comcast heavily lobbies federal and state lawmakers and has faced pressure from Philadelphia-based shareholder activists to disclose more of its political activity. Comcast says it complies with state and federal disclosure laws. Shareholders rejected the calls for greater disclosure on Comcast’s political activity this year.
The Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, Microsoft Corp., AT&T, Chevron, and the National Retail Federation — in total, about 20 politically influential organizations — also financed the cloakroom, with checks written to a private company called Friends of the House 2016 LLC.
A spokeswoman for Health Care Service Corp. told the Center for Public Integrity, which broke the story, that sponsors of the “hospitality venue” were invited to use it, which would have given officials from those companies and organizations access to lawmakers.
Comcast’s $200,000 was the biggest check to Friends of the House LLC. The next-largest contribution was $100,000 by seven companies or organizations.
Details of the cloakroom spilled into the public domain this year through an Ohio court case involving concerts at the 2016 Republican Convention. Friends of the House LLC was not a defendant in the case but images of the checks were attached to the court filings. The Comcast check was drawn on a Wells Fargo account.
“This is the real problem you have with political spending that is walled-off from disclosure,” said Bruce F. Freed, president and cofounder of the Center for Political Accountability. The center publishes an index of corporate accountability, the CPA-Zicklin Index.