Qwest donation to Denver convention shows support shift

    Political donations from the telecom industry show a strong change from Republicans to Democrats over the last three election cycles.The Qwest pledge of $6 million to the 2008 Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) in Denver demonstrates the change in political party fortunes at a deeper level. Qwest, its telecom rivals, Comcast and Level 3, and the communications industry in general are shifting their political donations from Republicans to Democrats.

    The Denver Host Committee recently announced that it had met its first goal of $15 million in cash donations by Dec. 14, on the road to a total promised collection of $40.6 million by August 2008. But the Qwest pledge was apparently not included in that $15 million.

    According to information from Host Committee spokesman Chris Lopez:

    “Qwest made a commitment of $6 million. Of that, $5 million is in-kind contribution and $1 million is cash contribution. That’s what their letter of commitment shows that is part of the public record when Denver went after the convention as the host city.

    “You asked if any of that money is counted toward the $15 million in cash contributions that the Host Committee recently reported. It is not. Certainly the $5 million in in-kind support is not counted. We only count actual cash contributions toward that $15 million.”

    According to a recent Denver Post story by Chuck Plunkett and Andy Young, Qwest wants exclusive rights to promote itself as the telecom provider for the convention. But the negotiations have run into trouble because Level 3 wants part of the action.

    Lopez said Level 3 has pledged $1 million in in-kind contributions to the committee.

    Spokeswoman Kimberly Tulp at Level 3 wouldn’t confirm the amount, saying that the information should come from the committee. She said, “Level 3 made a commitment to provide in-kind services. We’re not the only ones. Comcast also has a hat in the ring.” The Post reported that Level 3 was not looking for any exclusive deal.

    Through an official, Qwest declined any comment on the donation.

    But the strong financial support of the Democratic convention appears to be part of a sea change in telecom political donations. In 2004, for instance, Qwest gave 33 percent of its campaign donations to Democrats and 67 percent to Republicans via its political action committee. So far in the 2008 election cycle, its PAC donations have been split 50-50 between the two parties. And this doesn’t even include the $6 million to the convention.

    Level 3 Communications in the past has been more even-handed between Dems and Repubs. In 2004, it gave 54 percent to Democratic candidates and 46 percent to Republicans. But so far in the 2008 cycle, its PAC has given 89 percent to Democrats and 11 percent to Republicans.

    Comcast has moved from a 43-57 percent D/R split in 2004 to a 60-40 D/R split so far in this cycle.

    In the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, the entire telecommunications industry donated just under $6 million through its various PACs. In both cycles the percentages of party split were identical — 37 percent to Democratic candidates and 62 percent to Republicans.

    So far in the 2008 cycle, the telecom industry has given just under $1 million in election campaign contributions, 58 percent to Democrats and 42 percent to Republicans.

    PACs prefer to give to incumbents, so some of this change simply reflects the fact that Democrats now hold the majority of seats in Congress.