Does it matter who’s in the White House?
WASHINGTON — in this covetous town, the delicacies of the Georgetown Cupcake shop stand alone as symbols of wish fulfillment — heaping swirls of luscious confection atop rich, creamy pastry.
Therefore: Operation Cupcake. As the Federal Communications Commission debated final rules last December on how Internet service providers should manage their traffic, AT&T delivered 1,500 of these opulent desserts to the F.C.C.’s headquarters here.
Like many other big corporations, AT&T annually blankets power brokers with token holiday gifts, but the cupcake campaign was notable for its military precision. A three-page spreadsheet, stamped “AT&T Proprietary (Internal Use Only),” detailed how the desserts were to be deployed to each of the 63 commission offices: four dozen were assigned to the enforcement bureau, 10 dozen to the wireless divisions, 12 cupcakes to each of four commissioners, and 18 to the chairman, and so on.
As it turns out, AT&T had begun its $39 billion courting of T-Mobile about the same time. The resulting deal, announced a week ago, would transform the industry if approved. It would narrow the field of major wireless providers to three and vault AT&T into the No. 1 spot, ahead of Verizon; consumer advocates say the combination will lead to higher prices.
As interested parties lobby for and against the merger, one person will be pulling at the levers of power more often and with more influence than anyone else, according to both friends and foes: AT&T’s chief lobbyist, James W. Cicconi. A master strategist, Mr. Cicconi internalizes the art of regulatory and legislative war — and Operation Cupcake is but one of the efforts to come out of his shop…
In 13 years at AT&T, Mr. Cicconi has helped guide the company through roughly a dozen mergers, large and small, and he has made his share of enemies in Washington. As a testament to his power, however, few of them will criticize him on the record…
Nor is Mr. Cicconi’s lobbying effort a one-man show. He oversees a division that spent $115 million on lobbying over the last six years, putting it among the top five corporate spenders in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbying and campaign spending.
AT&T employs an army of outside lobbyists, including at least six prominent former members of Congress, including the former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and former Senator John Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat.
Two of the sleaziest politicians who ever lived.