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Efforts by telecom giant AT&T to obtain federal approval of its $39 billion bid to buy competing cell phone provider T-Mobile became controversial after this summer's revelations that some groups endorsing the merger, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Education Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, received funding from AT&T.

At GLAAD, which received $50,000 from AT&T, president Jarrett Barrios was forced to resign, and in July the organization rescinded its support for the merger.

The New York Times reported that the N.A.A.C.P. got at least $1 million from AT&T in 2009, and the NEA received a $75,000 grant for its foundation.

AT&T says the contributions it makes have nothing to do with the merger, and has denied the funds are meant to buy anybody's support; the groups say their endorsements are not for sale.

Critics contend otherwise.

Earlier this week, the Center for Public Integrity's website iwatchnews.org compiled a list of non-profits that had endorsed AT&T's position and had accepted the company's financial support.

"This is taking influence peddling to a whole new level,” Craig Holman, a lobbyist with Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, told iWatch.

“It’s sort of breathtaking that these groups are allowing themselves to be used this way.”

Among locals on the side of the merger are three San Diego non-profit groups that have sent letters to the Federal Communications Commmission backing AT&T's takeover plan: the Chicano Federation, the Urban League, and the Urban Corps of San Diego County.

San Diego Urban League president Ray King wrote, "The expanded mobile broadband network coverage that will result from the merger will provide greater service to our constituents and our nation, helping President Obama reach his goal of American progress in mobile broadband coverage.

"As an African American advocacy group, we also respect AT&T's long history and commitment to diversity, which includes its employees and suppliers."

Wrote the Chicano Federation's Arnulfo Manriquez, "We believe the proposed merger will result in greater access to more sophisticated communications for the Chicano/Latino community."

"AT&T has made a commitment to greatly increase deployment of its advanced mobile wireless technology if this is allowed to go forward," said Sam Duran of the Urban Corps. "This high tech economic stimulus will produce and sustain job growth."

AT&T is among the names on the "virtual wall of donors" featured on the website of the San Diego Urban League.

The Chicano Federation lists AT&T as a "table sponsor."

The Urban Corps says AT&T is a "foundation sponsor."

And Urban Corps board member Christine Moore, onetime aide to ex-Democratic Sen. Denise Ducheny, who is now running for congress, is a director of external affairs for AT&T California.

UPDATE: A reference in an earlier version of this post about what motivated the resignations of GLAAD board members has been deleted.

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Comments

jpschuerman Oct. 20, 2011 @ 5:41 p.m.

Matt, may I recommend that you properly fact check prior to posting your stories? The departure of Barrios and 7 of the board members from GLAAD was not forced but quite the opposite. They each chose to leave the organization as a result of gross malfeasance committed by the board's co-chair at the time. Your inaccurate reporting is a tremendous injustice to those who sought to stand on the side of ethical behavior.

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Matt Potter Oct. 20, 2011 @ 7:50 p.m.

Thanks for your comment. We relied on reporting by Politico, the Washington Blade, and the Advocate.

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jpschuerman Oct. 20, 2011 @ 8:27 p.m.

Thanks Matt. Actually, none of that reporting stated they were "forced" to leave however I can understand how you came to that conclusion based upon their "in the moment" reporting. I would actually recommend you do a little digging on this as I believe you'll find quite a fascinating story in how it all actually played out.

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