A growing number of nonprofits are recipients of AT&T grants; are they violating their IRS nonprofit status by shilling for the company’s interests?
The first real blood in the fight to derail AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile’s wireless business was spilled on Saturday, June 19th, when Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), was forced to resign his position. This is a remarkable occurrence because it came as a result of the group’s board of directors’ opposition to the merger.
One of the rituals that take place during a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) merger hearing is the introduction of statements of support of the merger by a gaggle of nonprofit organizations. This is a traditional, rubber-stamp exercise used to present a patina of legitimacy or social benefit to an obvious corporate consolidation grab.
Amidst the current and well-scripted Noh theater performance now taking place in Washington, DC, over the merger, AT&T has pulled out all the stops. It has called in the chips from three hundred nonprofit groups, labor unions, trade associations, state and local politicians, and private corporations. AT&T wants the acquisition to go through.
The action by the GLAAD board joins a growing chorus of public-interest groups and senators raising concerns about the merger.
Earlier this month, Politico.com reported that GLAAD had received $50,000 from AT&T and was among a long list of nonprofit recipients of AT&T largesse. GLAAD supported the merger on the spurious grounds that “the merger will increase functionality and speed, thus growing engagement and improving the effectiveness of the online advocacy work that is advancing equality for all.” While insisting, “we do not make policy decisions based on what’s best for our corporate sponsors,” it nonetheless backed the deal.