Originally published: June 30, 2011
Last updated: June 30, 2011 - 7:43pm
Some of the leading nonprofits and civil rights organizations that have urged federal regulators to approve AT&T’s mega-deal with T-Mobile have former and current employees — and lobbyists — for the wireless company serving on their boards.
Among the groups that have AT&T representatives on their boards of directors and have written to the FCC to back the AT&T/T-Mobile deal are the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the National Puerto Rican Coalition and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. "Over the past several weeks, we have engaged in intensive discussions with AT&T representatives, and with merger opponents. In those discussions, our focus has been on the key issues of the impact of the merger on adoption and jobs. Based on our due diligence, we have now reached the definitive view that the merger deserves to be approved," the National Urban League wrote to the FCC June 20, in a joint filing with the National Action Network. Rayford Wilkins, AT&T's CEO of diversified businesses, is a trustee on the National Urban League's board. A similar perceived conflict of interest proved toxic last week for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which came under fire from gay bloggers for weighing in on the AT&T/T-Mobile deal while a former AT&T executive and registered lobbyist, Troup Coronado, sat on the board. Amid the backlash, GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios and eight board members — including Coronado — resigned.
So far, other key minority groups haven't experienced the same type of internal turmoil for backing AT&T’s proposed T-Mobile purchase. But the groups are increasingly becoming targets of criticism over how influential corporations — especially those like AT&T that donate millions of dollars to nonprofit groups each year — should be in the work of advocates for the poor, minorities, gays and lesbians and other groups that have faced disadvantages or discrimination.