Still, Secretary of the Senate filing shows that the publicly traded company hired Public Strategies Inc. on Feb. 5 to lobby antitrust issues relating to business combination with Ticketmaster.
Lee Godown, Rep. Loretta Sanchezs (D-Calif.) longtime chief of staff, and Daniel Kohns, Rep. Mike Hondas (D-Calif.) former communications director, both registered on behalf of the firm and Live Nation.
A Live Nation source agreed privately that this weeks hearing was little more than a formality, since the proposal really just needs the Justice Department sign off on the deal and that the online ticket debacle is more of a distraction than a legal hurdle.
The Bruce Springsteen-Ticketmaster flap was a bit of a surprise, but is not really related to the deal, the source said. Theres nothing that a merger with Live Nation will do that changes that scenario. Its just what happens when you have bad P.R. at the wrong time.
Numerous sources also confirmed that Live Nation is in the process of enlisting Democratic uber-lobbyist Joel Jankowsky of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. The onetime aide to former Speaker Carl Albert (D-Okla.) did not respond to repeated attempts to discuss his possible hiring by the company.
In addition to Pascrell, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also recently asked federal investigators to explore the alleged ticket switcheroo, expressing doubt at Tuesdays hearing that Ticketmasters computer servers actually failed.
Theyve said that this clever arrangement was caused, in part, by a malfunction. Given what Ticketmaster stood to gain by directing consumers to its own resell site, the episode seems to be much more about money-making than about malfunction, Schumer said at Tuesdays hearing, according to a statement distributed by his office. Ticketmaster has apologized for the incident, but to my knowledge still hasnt provided any detail as to how this happened. ... We need answers, not apologies.
Schumer, as well as other lawmakers and legal experts, also hinted that the Springsteen ticket mess likely will pale in comparison to the scrutiny expected by Obamas new Justice Department.
The Center for America Progress David Balto, who testified at Tuesdays hearing, said in an interview this week that the proposed merger will be a test anti-trust case for new DOJ officials.
Balto called the case a textbook example of why lawmakers early last century set out to bust up unfair business practices by massive enterprises.
One of the reasons that the anti-trust laws were passed by Congress was that it was a favorite sport of monopolists to go around and acquire their potential or nascent rivals, Balto said.
Its unfortunate that weve allowed Ticketmaster to become a monopolist basically through very lax anti-trust enforcement, but theres no way we should permit them to make it worse by acquiring the first firm thats really well-positioned to challenge that monopoly in a decade, Balto added.
Another realm in which the companies new lobbying and public relations teams may find themselves treading water is contending with Ticketmasters nasty reputation on the Hill, which reaches back to 1994.
Nearly 15 years ago, members of the Seattle grunge rock band Pearl Jam testified in a highly publicized Congressional hearing that Ticketmaster engaged in price fixing.