Specter Cast On Senator's Comcast Ties


U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) has taken heat for carrying Comcast’s water in the current dispute the senator is raging against the National Football League.

But as Woodward told Bernstein in the All The President’s Men movie, if you’re going to hype it, hype it with the facts. This is a message to Chris Russo of WFAN radio in New York (simulcast on YES Network) after his diatribe on the topic Tuesday.

Russo told his radio partner Mike Francesa he can’t take Specter seriously when the senator talks about investigating why the NFL destroyed videotapes that were collected from the New England Patriots after the first game of the 2007 regular season. The Patriots were found to have videotaped New York Jets defensive coaches on the sidelines as the coaches sent in signals about plays the Jets were running. That’s a violation of league rules, and the Patriots and Coach Bill Bellichik were fined and the team lost a first-round draft selection.

Specter went on TV shows Sunday morning, the day of the Super Bowl (which the Patriots lost to the New York Giants, in case you hadn’t heard), to say he wanted to meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the “suspicious circumstances” surrounding the destruction of the tapes, according to The New York Times. Goodell has said he ordered tapes obtained from the Patriots destroyed so the information on them wouldn’t leak out and possibly harm other teams.

Well, Russo went off on Specter, saying the senator “has got a Comcast label on him” and labeling him a “phony.” Fine. Specter has supported Comcast in its dealings with the NFL before this, and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican member has previously raised the possibility of removing the anti-trust exemption that enables the league to collectively negotiate TV contracts.

But Russo at least three times made an accusation that doesn’t check out. Specter’s not on Comcast’s board of directors. So Russo can’t accurately say of Specter: “He’s a hypocrite, because the only reason he’s involved in it to begin with is he’s on the board of directors of Comcast. … He’s mad because Comcast doesn’t have a deal with the NFL Network.”

Comcast is a big contributor to Specter, though. In 2007, the company was his second-biggest contributor, giving $101,750, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The top contributor, Blank Rome LLP ($258,550 to Specter in 2007), has been identified as a law firm that has lobbied for Comcast, pocketing $120,000 in lobbying fees from the cable firm in 2007, again according to CPR’s Opensecrets.org Web site.

So Specter is fairly identified as in the Comcast camp.

Just not on its board.

Update, Update: On Feb. 7, Specter appeared as a call-in guest on the "Mike & The Mad Dog" radio program, interviewed by Francesa; Russo was off. And the senator said he’s been interested in the NFL and antitrust exemptions since way before cable companies got so powerful. I don’t believe he mentioned Comcast by name.

You can hear the interview here.