AT&T customers in California have experienced dramatic increases in the cost of landline service with the state’s largest local phone company in recent years. Following deregulation of most landline services in California in 2006, the flat rate for a landline is up from $10.69/month in 2006 to $23/month earlier this year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. And fees for some other services have risen even faster. Republican Rachelle Chong, who at the time was a California Public Utilities Commissioner, was credited as the driving force behind the plan to deregulate.
A recent post from the blog Stop the Cap! follows the money behind the scenes of Commissioner Chong’s unsuccessful fight to be reappointed to the commission in 2009, in the midst of rising phone costs post-deregulation. They find that many of the organizations supporting Chong had ties to industry groups:
AT&T even turned out…non-profit groups that showered the legislature with letters supporting her reappointment, without bothering to disclose AT&T had made substantial direct or indirect contributions to the groups in the past.
This list includes Walmart director Aida Alvarez. In her capacity as chair of the Latino Community Foundation (LCF), Alvarez sent a letter supporting Chong. What she didn’t mention is that her organization received a $25,000 grant from a nonprofit funded entirely by AT&T and Verizon.
Another Chong supporter later told the LA Times that “he’d endorsed her at the suggestion of executives at AT&T, which has given his group money.”
It appears that Aida Alvarez was a participant in the same kind of astroturfing Walmart has engaged in as it tries to break into urban markets around the U.S.