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Summary:

Over the last two decades, AT&T (NYSE: T) has donated more money to members of Congress than any other company in the country. As regulators…

AT&T and T-Mobile logos

Over the last two decades, AT&T (NYSE: T) has donated more money to members of Congress than any other company in the country. As regulators examine AT&T’s proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile, the telecom giant is hoping its largesse pays off.

A group of Democratic lawmakers is expected to deliver a letter to the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Dept. Friday afternoon touting the benefits of deal.

Critics of the deal immediately pounced on the letter (.pdf), which was first reported by Politico, with one group calling it “riddled with misleading and factually inaccurate statements.”

Although the letter doesn’t explicitly call for the merger’s approval, (and it’s unclear how many lawmakers will ultimately sign the document), it does advance some of AT&T’s key arguments: that the deal will lead to billions of dollars in additional investment, create thousands of jobs, and enable the company to expand wireless broadband access to rural and under-served communities.

AT&T has been lobbying aggressive in support of the deal and has lined up supporters across the political spectrum, including the powerful Communications Workers of America union.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat, led the group sending the letter to the FCC and Justice Dept. AT&T is Butterfield’s second largest campaign contributor since 2004, according the Center for Responsive Politics.

The letter says that AT&T’s commitment, as part of the merger, to cover 97 percent of Americans with next-generation wireless broadband coverage “will greatly contribute to our continuing economic recovery.”

But Free Press, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that opposes the mergers, blasted the letter, calling it “simply wrong on the facts.”

Despite AT&T’s claim that the merger will help bring wireless broadband to 97 percent of Americans, “the truth is that it won’t take a merger to get next-generation mobile broadband to rural and under-served communities,” Free Press said in a statement. “AT&T has already publicly committed to expanding its 4G coverage to the same 97 percent by 2012 without the merger, and Verizon has done the same.”

Free Press also disputes AT&T’s argument, echoed in the letter, that the merger will lead to billions of dollars in additional investment and create thousands of jobs.

“AT&T has already told Wall Street that it expects to spend at least $10 billion less in capital investment over the coming years,” Free Press said. “This drop in investment will unquestionably lead to fewer jobs. And the only benefits tens of thousands of T-Mobile workers will see from this deal are unemployment benefits.”

The FCC and the Justice Dept. are currently scrutinizing the deal.

By Sam Gustin

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  1. This is why the supreme court shouldn’t have said lobbying is a form of free speech: we know congress cannot be bias after receiving billions of dollars and untold perks from one side AND we’re forced (BY THEM) to pay each one of them $174,000!

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