Clear Channel Watch: Ramping Up D.C. Presence, Pressure

This should come as little surprise after Clear Channel Chairman/CEO Lowry Mays’ recent ceremonial grilling in front of a Senate panel.
Clear Channel’s D.C. lobbying arm grows from one to three as chief corporate glad-hander Andrew Levin entices two more away from the Hill. The expansion buys Clear Channel valuable access to key members of Congress, which should help smooth over the company’s image problems and increase the company’s influence on media lawmaking.
Robert Fisher comes straight from Arizona Senator John McCain’s backyard, having worked on McCain’s most recent re-election campaign in 1998. That earned him a place on McCain’s D.C. staff as the Senator’s media issues adviser. With Clear Channel’s purchase of Fisher, the company has all but installed a direct hotline to McCain’s ear on telecommunications policymaking. It’s almost as good as buying McCain himself.
Brendan Kelsay was the guy who took Levin’s old job: advising the House Commerce Committee’s Democratic members on media policy.
Related development: Clear Channel President/COO Mark Mays recently spammed the company with an interesting memo. Under the guise of praise for the Clear Channel’s collective coverage of the recent space shuttle accident, Mays fills everyone in on he and Lowry’s “interesting experience” in Washington:
“Lowry did a great job explaining our company and telling our story. You will be pleased how he masterfully stressed that we work hardest to please our local listeners, making their local CC stations better and better. Don Henley did his best to paint a tainted picture of our business, but ultimately everyone recognized that artists do set the ticket prices of concerts and are ultimately responsible for the marketing of their music product…”
“If you want to read more, please go to and the CCRC where you can find Lowry’s testimony and our press release. If your clients and customers are asking you about this event, please get these materials so you are informed about our position. A consistent external message is very important right now and we appreciate your help.”
Included in the political update is a plea to employees – please write members of Congress yourself and tell them how wonderful a company we really are. Instructions follow:
“We always want to encourage you to weigh in with your own Senators and Representatives, as well as Chairmen and Ranking Members of the committees of jurisdiction (Commerce and Judiciary in both the House and the Senate). We’re told the most effective method: letters personally written and sent to home state Senators and one’s own Representative. Say Feingold is wrong — urge them not to cosponsor. Tell them all the great things we do within our community; how we are live, local and engaged in our markets. If legislation pops up elsewhere we will keep you posted. You can find these contacts and contact information on the CCRC. Thank you for participating in the American political process!”
The phrase “say Feingold is wrong” is worth noting, as it is a direct request for all letter-writers register opposition to Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold’s pending “Competition in Radio and Concert Industries Act.” That bill targets Clear Channel for the way the company has leveraged its radio stations to wring more money out of concert promoters and record labels.
It will be interesting to see if campaign donations from the company begin surging as well. Clear Channel’s political action committee, listed as “Eller Media” on, has raised more than $264,000 in the last year.