Verizon is among several telecom giants launching a new advocacy group purported to be a lobby for sports fans -- pressing lawmakers on issues such as game blackouts, high ticket prices and lack of college football playoff broadcasts.
But some believe the new Sports Fans Coalition may really be entering the lobbying fray between cable and satellite providers over the right to carry regional sports games, reports The Hill.
Verizon and its affiliates, not including its wireless division, spent $2.9 million lobbying Congress in the third quarter on issues including satellite viewing authorization and broadband affordability, according to lobbying disclosure reports.
"We believe you should be able to watch your local sports teams play no matter what service you subscribe to," said David Goodfriend, a former lobbyist for DISH network, a satellite operator owned by EchoStar. He still does some lobbying work for the company, but said he could not convince executives to sign on to the coalition he helped form.
The Washington Times reports that cable companies are noticeably absent from the coalition's list of contributors, with includes the Dish Network, DirecTV, RCN and AT&T. The group's initial budget is $410,000 with $150,000 set aside for federal lobbying.
"It seems like a classic front group," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a lobbyist watchdog group. "Their whole point is to get away with something and fool people into making them think they care about sports. It's the product of lobbyists."