In the aftermath of the Justice Department's motion to block the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, conservatives in the media have begun attacking the Obama administration and alleging that DOJ's lawsuit was motivated by politics, and not by concern for consumer welfare.
The Daily Caller is doing their part to further the meme this afternoon, reporting that AT&T executives are "confused -- shocked, even," and quoting two anonymous sources affiliated with AT&T suggesting that DOJ rushed out yesterday's complaint against the wireless giant because of "mounting political pressure" and to get ahead of AT&T's message on jobs. Indeed, one of their sources seemed to suggest, implausibly, that DOJ made their announcement yesterday in response to an AT&T jobs announcement from just hours earlier.
From the Daily Caller article:
According to two sources familiar with the matter, on Tuesday of this week -- the day before the complaint -- AT&T representatives and DOJ attorneys had a meeting in which they discussed the wireless company's proposal for its divestitures. Both sources told TheDC there was absolutely no hint or indication given from the DOJ during that meeting that the next day, they would file suit to block the merger.
"We were talking about setting up another meeting..." said one of the sources. "Not once did they say, 'Don't worry about it because we're going to block it tomorrow!'"
"When we got the media advisory, we thought 'This can't be us ... who else could it be?'" said the other source.
Then, on the Wednesday before DOJ filed suit to block the merger, AT&T announced that even with the merger, the company would retain up to 35,000 jobs -- a fact that was sure to become a major talking point for those pushing consolidation of the two companies.
At that point, the theory goes, folks at the DOJ decided to file a complaint before the "mounting political pressure was too insurmountable for them," as one source put it.
Another source familiar with the merger proceedings put the speculation another way, telling TheDC that the "jobs announcement yesterday caused them [DOJ] to move [more quickly] than they had intended."
The "jobs announcement" the Daily Caller's source referred to presumably was AT&T's announcement that they would bring 5,000 outsourced call center jobs back to the U.S. upon approval of the merger. AT&T made that announcement early Wednesday morning, just hours before news of DOJ's lawsuit broke around 10:30 a.m. Deputy attorney general James Cole and acting assistant attorney general Sharis Pozen held a press conference on the suit shortly after 11 a.m.
Art Brodsky, communications director for the public interest group Public Knowledge, dismissed the notion that the Justice Department rushed the civil complaint in response to AT&T's jobs announcement, noting that the case has been under "active consideration" since March. "There was nothing slapdash about this," Brodsky told Media Matters.
When asked about the timing of the complaint at yesterday's press conference, Pozen said: "We went through a lot of effort here; as I said, months of effort, worked thoroughly and carefully with the parties and concluded that this merger violated the law. And when we reach those conclusions we take actions. We wanted to clear up any uncertainty in the marketplace about this transaction."