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Comcast hands out 'priority assistance' cards to Washington power players

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NBC's parent company takes a very hands-on approach

The controversial Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger hinges on regulatory approval from the FCC and the Department of Justice, both of which are based in Washington, DC. It will come as no surprise that Comcast is trying to ingratiate itself to the DC elite by passing out cards with "priority assistance" codes to select staffers, journalists, and other influential citizens of the nation's capital, which can help expedite service for the select few who posses the cards.

In an excellent report by Luke Mullins of the Washingtonian detailing how former Meet The Press moderator David Gregory lost his job, Mullins notes how Comcast is a much more hands-on corporate parent for NBC than GE ever was. Comcast executives show up to Washington events — something that GE executives rarely did — including the White House Correspondents' Dinner, where Comcast execs "mingled with lawmakers, Capitol Hill aides, and media muckety-mucks."

Comcast also had an even more personal way of sucking up to Washington. Its government-affairs team carried around "We’ll make it right" cards stamped with "priority assistance" codes for fast-tracking help and handed them out to congressional staffers, journalists, and other influential Washingtonians who complained about their service.

A Comcast spokeswoman says this practice isn’t exclusive to DC; every Comcast employee receives the cards, which they can distribute to any customer with cable or internet trouble. Nevertheless, efforts like this one have surely helped Comcast boost its standing inside the Beltway and improve its chances of winning regulatory approval for its next big conquest: merging with the second-largest cable provider in the country, Time Warner Cable.

As The Verge reported back in August, Comcast has been passing out these cards for years, and the company is using them to target Washington power players, perhaps in the hopes that it will shift negative opinions of the company and its $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable that will create an even larger conglomerate which will supply internet access to more than a third of US broadband subscribers.

Mullins goes on to state that Comcast exercising its control over Meet The Press may be for more than just higher ratings, pointing toward approval for the Time Warner Cable merger:

All Comcast needs, once again, is Washington’s blessing. Which is why Meet the Press, the company’s marquee Beltway property, is not just another show.

The FCC's review of the merger is currently scheduled to wrap up in early 2015.

Disclosure: Comcast Ventures is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge's parent company.