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Telecom Donations Rankling the GOP

“They’re funding the campaigns of people who want to put them out of business,” the aide said, adding that business groups often rationalize their giving because they think Democrats will be willing to work with them.

“They’re helping the DCCC elect more people to come to Congress to rail against Corporate America and business,” the aide said. “These guys are not good for business.”

The frustration comes against the backdrop of a grim fundraising picture for House Republicans.

The National Republican Congressional Committee was $29 million short of its Democratic counterpart in cash on hand as of Jan. 31.

In a closed-door session earlier this week, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) exhorted his colleagues to get off their “dead asses” and start raising money for the party. Fully 142 of them have not yet pledged or contributed funds to the NRCC.

Giving by corporate political action committees isn’t helping. Just last cycle, Republicans claimed two of every three dollars doled out by the PACs.

But in 2007, Democrats neutralized that advantage, vacuuming up about half of all corporate PAC donations, according to a Roll Call review.

Of the four major phone companies, only Sprint is now favoring Democrats overall, giving the majority party about 57 percent of their PAC contributions, according to CQ MoneyLine.

The other three companies, AT&T, Verizon and Qwest, still give a majority to Republicans but by slimmer margins than in years past.

AT&T gave Democrats 38 percent of their PAC dollars last year, up 8 percentage points from the 2006 cycle; Verizon gave them 47 percent, up 10 percentage points from the last cycle; and Qwest gave them 49 percent, a 22 percentage-point boost over 2006, according to records from the FEC and CQ MoneyLine.

AT&T spokeswoman Claudia Jones declined to comment, and Verizon spokesman David Fish was unavailable at press time.

Sprint spokesman John Taylor said the company does not discuss the FISA issue, even to confirm it is actively lobbying it on Capitol Hill. He said the company’s top priority — lowering the fees it pays AT&T and Verizon for access to their networks — does not break evenly along partisan lines.

They have found support for their position among some key Democrats, including House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who held a hearing on the issue in October.

Qwest, meanwhile, is not actively lobbying on FISA, according to Shirley Bloomfield, the company’s senior vice president for federal relations. The company reportedly refused to participate in the wiretapping program and thus has no interest in the retroactive immunity provision at the core of the standoff in the House. “We’re only interested in prospective immunity,” Bloomfield said. “So we really have watched the issue for certain logistical things.”

Bloomfield, who joined the company last year, said Qwest is splitting its money evenly this year because “we work with everybody.”

The Denver-based company focuses its PAC giving on lawmakers from the Western states where it operates, and on members of key committees, Bloomfield said.

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