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K Street Files: Sprint Plan to Fight Merger Not Yet Clear

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Former Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon has joined the public policy team at K&L Gates and will focus on technology issues.

Not surprisingly, Sprint announced this week that it would wage a fierce lobbying battle on Capitol Hill against AT&T’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile.

But executives with the Kansas-based telecommunications company, which stands to come out the big loser from the merger, were vague on how they intend to counter the formidable AT&T lobbying machine.

Sprint’s chief lobbyists said they will make their positions known both in Congress and at the federal agencies. The Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department must approve the sale. A number of lawmakers are calling for hearings on the merger, which they suggest will limit consumers’ cellphone options and increase their bills.

“We will be active on the Hill,” Bill Barloon, Sprint’s vice president of state and federal legislative affairs, said in a Monday interview. While Barloon left open the possibility that the company might beef up its lobbying team, he said nothing had been decided yet.

Sprint officials also would not say whether they were planning to form any alliances to counter the sale.

“It is not something we are prepared to talk about,” Sprint spokesman John Taylor said. While Taylor said Sprint was reaching out to media to talk about the company’s position, he could not say whether the company plans an ad campaign to whip up opposition to the sale.

Any lobbying effort would be an uphill challenge considering AT&T’s lobbying juggernaut. Last year AT&T contracted with 23 outside K Street firms and shelled out almost $15.4 million on federal lobbying. 

By contrast, Sprint spent just over $2.5 million on lobbying and had a team of seven outside firms. Taylor said the company was undeterred by the fact that it was outmatched.

“If this is a David-vs.-Goliath fight, that is OK because David won,” he said.

Art Brodsky, a spokesman for the advocacy group Public Knowledge, said it was understandable that opponents of the sale do not yet have a plan in place since the acquisition was just announced last week.

But Brodsky said a lobbying strategy would be devised.

“There will be some sort of something,” he said. “Nobody will roll over for this.”

Another Blue Dog on K Street 

Former Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) is joining the K&L Gates law firm, following a parade of his fellow Blue Dog Democrats to K Street.

Gordon, who retired from Congress last year after serving 26 years, will be part of the firm’s public policy team, which also includes former Rep. Jim Walsh (R-N.Y.) and former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.).

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