Are Your Texts Supporting Tea Partiers?

AT&T donations chart

Angry about your cell phone service? About American politics? A promotional email from The Nation magazine and CREDOMobile advises that you channel your frustrations with both by making the switch to their baldly progressive mobile phone carrier service.

Delivered yesterday to Nation e-newsletter subscribers, the subject line asks "Has your phone company supported Michele Bachmann? Find out now."

That's Bachmann, the Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota's sixth district, Tea Party superstar, and every progressive person's bogeywoman.

The ad copy, crafted by CREDO's in-house team, points out that none other than AT&T has financed the campaigns of Bachmann and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, while Verizon Wireless has its own pet conservative cause, Blue Dogs (conservative Democrats). The email encourages a switch to CREDOMobile, which donates 1% of your monthly phone charges to groups like EarthJustice and Doctors Without Borders. "Take a look at your last phone bill, and think about where your money is going," it says.

Let's back up. Founded in 1985 as a progressive mutual fund called Working Assets, the company now called CREDO is a fervent advocate for organizations like the ACLU and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, having donated $2,680,211 to progressive causes last year. AT&T, meanwhile, has so far contributed $2,032,709 to the 2010 election cycle—on the left and the right.

Does AT&T, like Bachmann, oppose abortions? Not quite.

Though any political contribution could be considered encouragement, The Nation-backed ad might have been hasty to claim a $5,000 contribution an endorsement of Bachmann’s politics in general. This year, AT&T also gave $5,000 to moderate Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and $24,750 to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).

Telecommunication firms have aggressively donated to political campaigns since they were shaken by the massive antitrust cases of the '80s. AT&T has emerged as the most active contributor. But their donation history is roughly split down the middle between Republicans and Democrats, revealing a tendency to succor favor from likely winners in areas where the service stands to benefit. In Minnesota, where 3G service is patchy and where fourth largest city Duluth was only fitted with service for the iPhone last week, the carrier might need all the help it can get.

Sarah PalinAT&T's two-faced giving shows The Nation's email at least deserves a double-take. CREDO spokesperson Paul Johnson tells FastCompany.com that CREDO is proudly flogging their politics for progressives that make up the core of their subscribers (and potential future ones). To that end, they've also lampooned Sarah Palin in a recent print advertisement, also in The Nation. And FastCompany.com named CREDO one of the most daring brands in a blog post last year.

"Our marketing message attracts a lot of attention," Johnson tells FastCompany.com. "We encourage that. But it’s not just a marketing message, it’s our entire ethos."

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10 Comments

  • Jorge M. Camacho

    "AT&T has emerged as the most active contributor. But their donation history is roughly split down the middle between Republicans and Democrats, revealing a tendency to succor favor from likely winners in areas where the service stands to benefit."

    So where is the article titled: "Are your texts supporting Moveon.org"?

  • Finn T. MacGillicuddy

    While Ms. Luse has a firm grasp of her subject and is clearly a very talented young journalist on the rise, Rip Empson was one of the finest bloggers ever to grace these hallowed pages. Mr. Boron-Brenner obviously wandered in from some provincial watering hole, or gossip column, slack jaw a-drooling and thinks he can sling mud at the pantheon. But we know better.

  • Daniel Boron-Brenner

    It's surprising, but not exactly shocking, how much large telecommunication firms support politicians on both asides. But the Tea Party? Have they really achieved such large proportions that a giant company like AT&T feels compelled to court them?

    Also, this article makes anything Rip Empson ever wrote look like louche trash.

  • Daniel Boron-Brenner

    Wry examination of the way a universally wielded technology can be manipulated for political ends.

    This is also way better than anything Rip Empson ever wrote.

  • jeff stewart

    Jazzed to hear AT&T supports conservatives - was thinking of switching our company off AT&T, now I don't mind keeping our accounts here. Will probably move more to AT&T now.

  • Andrew Marantz

    How about a corporation that doesn't attempt to buy favors from any politicians? I wouldn't mind supporting a corporation like that -- one that advertises its respect for the separation of purse and state.

  • Andrew Marantz

    How about a corporation that doesn't attempt to buy favors from any politicians? I wouldn't mind supporting a corporation like that -- one that advertises its respect for the separation of purse and state.