In wake of Trump AT&T scandal, Feinstein, De Leon cash in on telecom contributions


May 11, 2018

CALIFORNIA — While Congressional Democrats call for an investigation into the payments made by AT&T to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in exchange for access to the President’s thinking on telecommunications-related matters, they remain mum about their own decades-long ties to the telecom industry.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is seeking her sixth-term, has accepted over $400,000 in campaign contributions from AT&T and nearly a million dollars from the communications and electronics sector throughout her career.

Senate Pro Temp Kevin De Leon, a self-branded “progressive” vying for Feinstein’s seat, accepted over $57,000 from AT&T between 2006 and 2014. The major telecom company was his top campaign contributor in 2010, and as recently as 2016, De Leon reports receiving $7,000 from AT&T for his abandoned campaign for lieutenant governor of California.

“It’s no secret that AT&T and the telecommunications industry on the whole is using its lobbying power to influence our politicians,” said Joe Spaulding, campaign policy director for Alison Hartson, who is a corporate-free candidate in the same race. “That’s why it’s important to inform voters about who is getting money from where, and why Alison’s corporate-free message is resonating with voters across California.”

Recent FEC filings indicate Feinstein has received more than $1.2 million from contributions made by political actions committees of various industries, and De Leon has amassed nearly $64,000 from PACs so far this election cycle. Alternatively, Hartson has received 0 contributions from PACs of any kind, keeping a campaign promise to never take a dime of corporate or dark money.

In addition, the FEC reports show Hartson has financed 72% of her campaign with small-dollar donations of $200 or less while Feinstein and De Leon both post less than 8% of their campaign finances come from similar contributions.

“When an industry lobby provides a campaign with funds for election, they do it for a reason,” said Hartson. “AT&T has made the news this week, but the telecommunications industry has been working to influence the outcome of elections in this country for decades -- including those for U.S. Senate in California.”

Hartson pointed to De Leon’s support of SB 649, a 2017 bill that would have prevented local municipalities from creating their own fee structure for telecom companies coming into their communities and setting up signal equipment. Despite receiving letters of opposition from The League of California Cities, California Chapter of the American Planning Association, the Urban Counties of California, Rural County Representatives of California and the Protect our Local Streets Coalition, among others, De Leon voted for the measure, which was eventually vetoed by California Gov. Jerry Brown who said the measure “took too much control away from the cities and counties.”

“De Leon has come out during this election cycle in favor of net neutrality,” said Spaulding. “But when you look back at his campaign contributions and his voting record as Senate Pro Temp, he’s voted in favor of his donors over his constituents more than once. It’s easy to say you support something popular during an election year, but just looking at this track record, we know exactly who he will serve in D.C.”

Alison Hartson is a True Progressive running for U.S. Senate in California. A former school teacher turned activist, Hartson spent 5 years at the helm of Wolf-PAC, an organization working for a 28th constitutional amendment to get money out of politics in this country once and for all. Hartson’s platform includes Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation, Maximum income and a swift shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Learn more about Alison Hartson at

Alison Hartson