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Selling the Anti-Bachmann Phone

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The liberal telephone company Credo Mobile is using other companies’ donations to Rep. Michele Bachmann to lure away their left-leaning customers.

“He would much rather be known as a doer in the progressive community than someone who they read about in a news story,” the former Credo employee told Roll Call.

Credo contributes a portion of its annual revenue to liberal causes, while its team of political organizers rally a network of about 2 million activists around key liberal issues, from environmental protection to the appointment of Elizabeth Warren to head the government’s new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In the past week, Credo volunteers canvassed for Democrats in advance of the Wisconsin recall elections for Republican state legislators, delivered a petition to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) asking him to preserve the state’s ban on hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas drilling, and directed thousands of calls to the White House pressuring President Barack Obama to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the debt ceiling debates.

Becky Bond, the company’s political director, manages as many as 10 issue campaigns from her San Francisco office every week. That involves sending about 15 emails every day to mobilize customers and volunteers.

“To be a Credo Mobile customer — that’s an activist act,” she told Roll Call during a trip to Washington, D.C., last week to speak at an activist training boot camp hosted by the New Organizing Institute. “Instead of fundraising, we run a business to fund our activism.”

Of every customer’s monthly charges, 1 percent goes to liberal nonprofit groups. The bill itself doubles as a newsletter from the progressive world.

In the past four years, Credo has given $10.5 million to about 125 “progressive organizations working for social change” selected by its customers, according to its website. On top of that, the company contributed another $1.8 million to tree-planting groups, independent media, foreign countries suffering from disasters and voter registration projects.

The biggest recipient of Credo’s largess has been Planned Parenthood, which received $467,000 in that period.

During the last election cycle, Kieschnick personally gave at least $186,000 to predominantly Democratic candidates, nonprofits and 527 organizations, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis.

The company contrasts those numbers with the money Verizon and AT&T spend every year in Washington.

PACs and individuals associated with Verizon and AT&T have contributed a combined total of nearly $42.6 million to Republican causes since the 1990 election cycle, compared with $30.8 million to Democrats during the same period, according to a recent CRP report.

A spokeswoman for AT&T refuted the notion that the company favors Republicans in its political giving.

“Our political contributions are balanced and bipartisan,” she said. “Credo is a wireless competitor well-known for exaggerated statements in its attempts to win customers. This is simply more of the same.”

AT&T and Verizon do make significant contributions to charity — an average of 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent of pre-tax profits from 2007 to 2009, respectively, according to data compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. In 2010, AT&T gave more than $148 million through corporate, employee and foundation giving programs.

Credo’s political marketing is also a boon for Sprint, the nation’s third-largest phone company, said Ronald Goodstein, a marketing professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.

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