Arsenal of a lobbyist: Hardball and cupcakes

In this city the greedy, the delights of the shop Georgetown Cupcake autonomous as symbols of the desire to achieve - fills swirls of flavorful confection top rich, creamy pastry.

Therefore: Cupcake operation. As the Federal Communications Commission has discussed the final rules last December on how ISPs should manage their traffic, AT&T delivered 1,500 of these sumptuous desserts at the AFC headquarters here.

Like many other large companies, brokers AT&T year covers power with symbolic holiday gifts, but the campaign was marked by his cupcake military precision. A spreadsheet of three pages, marked "owner AT&T (Internal Use Only)," details how the desserts are to be deployed to each of the 63 offices of the Commission: four dozen have been assigned to the enforcement office, 10 dozen wireless divisions, 12 cupcakes for each of the four commissioners, and 18 to the president, and so on.

As it turns out, began his AT&T $ 39,000,000,000 Court T-Mobile at the same time. It follows the agreement, announced a week ago, to transform the industry if it is approved. It would restrict the scope of the major wireless providers and three AT&T vault in theNo. 1 spot, before Verizon, consumer advocates say the combination will result in higher prices.

As stakeholders lobby for and against the merger, a person will be pulling the levers of power more often and with more influence than anyone else, according to both friends and enemies: chief lobbyist AT&T, James W. Cicconi. A strategist, Mr. Cicconi (pronounced so-CONE-ee) internalizes the art of war regulatory and legislative - and the operation is Cupcake, but one effort to get out of his shop.

Tutored by James A. Baker III in the ways of politics in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, Mr. Cicconi, 58, plays hard - literally, as a pitcher in a baseball league for adults, throwing fastballs to hitters more a decade younger.

Its roots are in Texas, and he never forgets the lesson of the Alamo: Texans have lost. Other battles have different lessons for him. Once he took his staff on a retreat at night in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he visited the Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top and absorbed the lessons of combat tactics.

In 13 years AT&T, Mr. Cicconi has helped guide the company in about a dozen mergers, large and small, and he has made his share of enemies in Washington. As a token of his power, however, few of them blame it on the record.

"He's smart,he warned,it is strategic," said Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a group of media and consumer who has often wrestled with him. "I do not think there's a lobbyist in town that I disagree with more on issues, but I have the utmost respect and admiration for the way he did his job. He always thinks three steps ahead of the competition. "

MR. Cicconi, senior executive vice president for external affairs and laws, is not alone, of course, in spreading the message of the company AT&T. Five other executives rate similar degree, and four others are group chairmen or chief executives, all under AT&T President and CEO, Randall L. Stephenson.

Nor is the lobbying effort Mr. Cicconi a one-man show. He oversees a division that spent $ 115 million on lobbying over the last six years, putting it among the five largest consumer company in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbying and campaign expenses.

AT&T employs an army of outside lobbyists, at least six distinguished former members of Congress, including former majority leader of the Senate, Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and former Senator John Breaux, a Democrat from Louisiana.

Over the past two decades, employees AT&T and political action committees have pumped more campaign contributions in federal politics than any other American company, the Center for Responsive Politics reports. In the cycle of the last campaign contributions AT&T found their way to 390 representatives and 70 senators.

"They are a monster," said Dave Levinthal, editor, a database of online advocacy center. "When you have dozens of former federal officials to do your bidding in Washington with a detailed knowledge of how Washington works, it is exponentially easier to grease the skids of government."

While Congress is considering the merger, the duel will be Republicans and Democrats on the balance of market forces and regulatory intervention. The White House will seek to balance the president's campaign promises to crack down on antitrust issues while trying to prove he is not anti-business.

In arguing for the merger of T-Mobile, and Mr. Cicconi AT_u 0026_T have bread on the board. The unit Antitrust Department of Justice will have to determine whether the agreement will substantially limit consumer choice. After the merger, Verizon would AT&T and together control almost 80 percent of the cellular market, with Sprint distant third.

(Verizon declined to comment on Mr. Cicconi or AT&T deal to acquire T-Mobile.)

And the FCC, who, with Justice must approve the merger, plans to spread the wavelengths of thefew broadcast on which wireless broadband is working. Operation T-Mobile would result in fewer potential bidders in auctions of its Airwave.