Sunday, March 23, 2008

Back Room Secret Meetings on Cable Bill

Jimmy Naifeh hosting secret meetings with many powerful lobbyists. OUR State Government at work?

NO, it is

1- Big business seeking protection from competition.

2- Local government officials protecting "their" franchise fees (which we pay as cable fees.)

3- Lobbyists seeking big bucks from the special relationships they have that 99.9% of normal taxpayers have no hope of matching.


A small group of lobbyists gathers outside the office of House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh each week, checking BlackBerries and chatting as they wait to be invited through the doors of the speaker's office and into a conference room in the back.

The subject of those meetings is an issue that could touch every corner of the state: whether telephone giant AT&T will receive statewide permission to offer television service in competition with cable companies like Comcast and Charter, and how widely available AT&T's service will be.

The meeting participants come from a wider cast of characters: dozens of lobbyists, lawmakers and others on Tennessee's Capitol Hill whose relationships and loyalties make a potent stew of politics. They include numerous former members of Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration and two married couples.

"I think every lobbyist in Nashville's been hired on one side or the other," said House Commerce Committee Chairman Charles Curtiss, the Sparta Democrat who sponsored the AT&T legislation last year.

The quiet negotiations in Naifeh's office, which participants are reluctant to discuss, stand in stark contrast to last year's knock-down public fight over the legislation, which would allow AT&T to franchise its new service statewide instead of negotiating with each individual city, town or county.

Many parties say they're close to sealing a deal.