Non-profit

Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation

Website:

corporate.comcast.com/values/foundation

Location:

Philadelphia, PA

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)-PF

Formation:

1999

Type:

Private Foundation

President:

Dalila Wilson-Scott

The Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, formerly the Comcast Foundation, is the corporate foundation of Comcast Corporation, which owns the Comcast cable television service, the NBC television network, and Universal movie studios. The foundation gives extensive local grants in cities for which Comcast is the primary cable operator, as well as nationally to left-wing activist organizations organized by Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians.

In 2014, grantees of the Comcast Foundation lobbied the federal government extensively to allow Comcast to merge with Time Warner Cable. Comcast withdrew its request, but continues to support left-wing activists.

Local Grantmaking

The center of Comcast’s corporate giving has been locally based grants. In 2019 the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation donated to 14 branches of the Urban League, 16 chapters of the Red Cross, 38 branches of Big Brothers Big Sisters, 93 divisions of the Boys and Girls Club, and 162 local United Ways.  Nearly all these donations were under $100,000, and most were below $25,000. [1]

On the first Saturday in May, Comcast holds “Comcast Cares Day,” where employees spend the day volunteering in their communities.  As of 2019 the company says that since the first Comcast Cares Day in 2001, one million employees have donated six million hours of their time and provided $25 million in grants to local nonprofits. [2]

Brian L. Roberts, who has been Comcast CEO since 2002 and whose father, Ralph Roberts, founded the company in 1965, told television journalist Neil Cavuto in 2010 that Comcast Cares Day is “probably—not even probably—it is my favorite day of the year, where I feel so much pride in the company and our employees and the culture that my dad started.” [3]

Left-Leaning Advocacy Grants

Comcast has combined local grants with grants to race-based left-wing organizations.  Organizations receiving multi-year grants from Comcast include UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza),[4] the League of United Latin American Citizens,[5] the National Puerto Rican Coalition,[6] Congreso de Latinos Unidos,[7]  the Latino Community Foundation,[8] Detroit’s Malcolm X Academy,[9] the National Black Caucus of State Legislators,[10] the American Indian College Fund,[11] the First Nations Development Institute,[12] and the National Urban Indian Family Coalition. [13] These donations included cash grants and in-kind donations of free or reduced-price broadband and donated time for public-service announcements on NBC and its affiliated cable networks.

In 2008, Comcast announced it would give $5 million to organizations that would use the money “to increase voting in diverse communities served by the cable industry.”  Organizations receiving grants under this “Our Time To Vote” drive included Asian Pacific Islander American Vote, the Hispanic Federation, LULAC, the NAACP National Voters Fund, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. [14]

Contributions from Comcast employees also heavily favored Democrats. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2011 that over 30 individuals associated with Comcast donated $235,650 to the Obama Victory Fund and the Democratic National Committee, with the wives of two Comcast executives contributing the maximum allowable amount of $35.850. Comcast Foundation president Charisse R. Lille donated $20,000 to the Obama Victory Fund. While neither Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts nor his wife Aileen Roberts donated to Democrats, they did host President Obama and his aide Valerie Jarrett at their Martha’s Vineyard home in August 2011, and Brian L. Roberts’s mother, Suzanne Roberts, contributed $10,000 to the Obama Victory Fund. Comcast executives only contributed $10,000 to the Republicans: $5,000 to Mitt Romney and $5,000 to Tim Pawlenty. [15]

Comcast and its executives, said Center for Responsive Politics spokesman Michael Beckel, “are incredibly interested and invested in the political future of Barack Obama.” [16]

David L. Cohen

Until at least 2015, the Comcast Foundation was under the control of David L. Cohen, senior vice-president of Comcast for government relations until he became Comcast’s senior advisor in January 2020. As of 2019 he was chairman of the Comcast Foundation. [17]

Cohen, who is a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, also sits on the boards of the National Urban League, City Year, UnidosUS, and the Philadelphia Theatre Company. [18] Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014 said Cohen was “known in Washington as Comcast’s chief lobbyist,” noted that he and his wife Rhonda raised $500,000 for the Obama campaign in 2012, and that President Obama, at a November 2014 fundraiser at Cohen’s house, remarked that he had been to Cohen’s house so often, “the only thing I haven’t done in this house is have seder dinner.” [19]

Foundation Grantee Alignment with Comcast Corporation Goals

Comcast Foundation grantees have appeared to serve Comcast Corporation interests on at least three occasions: During the successful merger with NBCUniversal in 2010, the failed merger with Time Warner Cable, and the debate over “net neutrality.”

NBCUniversal Merger

The New York Times noted in 2014 that Comcast had “enlisted a vast network of allies,” many of them Comcast Foundation recipients, to support its successful effort to merge with NBCUniversal in 2010. [20]

Proposed Time Warner Merger

The Times noted in 2015 that it found that over 80 recipients of Comcast Foundation grants wrote to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the agency to allow Comcast to merge with Time Warner Cable. The Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, for example, received $95,000 over five years from the Comcast Foundation. The chamber’s president, Varsovia Fernandez, wrote a letter to the FCC endorsing the merger and wrote an op-ed for the Philadelphia Daily News called “Comcast Deserves A Fair Shake.” [21]

The Times noted that employees of center-right think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Institute for Policy Innovation, wrote letters saying the proposed merger with Time Warner Cable was not anticompetitive. None of these organizations received Comcast Foundation grants in 2019. [22]

David L. Cohen told the Times that it was “simply not true” that Comcast was “buying off support” for the merger with Time Warner Cable with its grants and that the charge was “offensive to the groups we support.” [23]

The Washington Post noted Comcast Foundation grants to groups that “have a resonance in Washington,” including a five-year, $250,000 grant to Ford’s Theatre and a $5,000 grant to the Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society.  Comcast also became a corporate sponsor of WAMU, the public radio station of American University. [24]

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that in 2013 the Comcast Foundation donated $71,000 to the Philadelphia Police Athletic League, which had then-U.S. Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA) on its board. Comcast donated $3,595 to the Philadelphia branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters and held a party in honor of the group at Comcast headquarters. At the party, Big Brothers Big Sisters gave then-U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) “a surprise birthday cake and announced his entry into a youth mentoring hall of fame.”  Between 2009-14, the Comcast Foundation annually donated $25,000 to the Blanchette Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, named for the mother of Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV).

Both Rep. Brady and Rep. Fattah told the Inquirer that Comcast Foundation donations had no effect on their decisions. Sen. Rockefeller said Comcast’s donations had “no effect whatsoever” on him and “money is not my biggest need.” [25]

Comcast withdrew its bid to purchase Time Warner Cable in April 2015.  One month later Time Warner was purchased by Charter Communications for $67 billion. [26]

“Net Neutrality”

The New York Times noted in 2014 that some Comcast Foundation recipients, including the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Urban League had written the FCC asking the agency not to mandate “net neutrality,” a position endorsed by Comcast. In addition, Comcast hosted part of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition’s annual civil rights symposium at its Washington offices. LULAC national executive director Brent L. Wilkes said it wasn’t LULAC’s policy to let its donors “influence our position” on issues. [27]

Wilson-Scott Era Grantmaking

In 2016 Comcast named JPMorgan Chase president Dalila Wilson-Scott a senior vice president and president of the Comcast Foundation, which was renamed the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation in 2018. [28]  In 2020, Wilson-Scott was promoted to executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast, while continuing as Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation president. [29]

In May 2020, the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation and television stations that NBCUniversal owned announced they would give $2.5 million to local groups they thought were best addressing the problems of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia, Tenants and Workers United in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, and Rescuing Leftover Cuisine in New York City. [30]

In August 2020, the city of Philadelphia announced a program that would provide free Internet access to 35,000 low-income students for two years. The $17 million program would be paid for by $2 million in federal funding, in-kind donations from Comcast and T-Mobile, and $11 million in donations from foundations, including $7 million from Comcast NBCUniversal and $4 million in total from the William Penn and Neubauer Family Foundations and the Philadelphia School Partnership. [31]

In February 2021 Comcast announced it would award $5 million as 500 $10,000 grants to minority-owned businesses in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, and Philadelphia through a newly created fund called “the Comcast RISE Investment Fund.” To promote this fund, the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation awarded $2 million to U.S. Black Chambers, the US. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Asian American Chamber of Commerce, and 20 nonprofits based in the five cities covered by the program. [32]

References

  1. Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation Form 990. ^
  2. “Comcast NBCUniversal Celebrates 18th Annual Comcast Cares Day,” Comcast press release, May 2, 2019, https://corporate.comcast.com/press/releases/comcast-nbcuniversal-celebrates-18th-annual-comcast-cares-day (accessed March 23, 2021). ^
  3. “CEO—Interview,” CEO Wire, April 22, 2010. ^
  4. “Comcast Foundation Energizes NCLR’s Affiliate Program,” press release from Comcast, July 10, 2006. ^
  5. “The Comcast Foundation Supports LULAC’s Education of Latino Youth,” press release from Comcast, October 5, 2006. “LULAC Civic Engagement Campaign To Benefit From The Generous Support of the Comcast Foundation,” press release from the League of United Latin American Citizens, January 27, 2012. ^
  6. “The Comcast Foundation Supports the National Puerto Rican Coalition’s College to Career (C2C) Program,” press release from Comcast, January 15, 2007. ^
  7. “Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc. Receives $75,000 Comcast Grant,” press release from Comcast, June 28, 2007. ^
  8. “Latino Community Foundation To Invest Nearly $1,000,000 in Broadband,” press release from the Latino Community Foundation, March 11, 2010.  Most of the Latino Community Foundation’s grants came from the Department of Commerce and the state of California.  The foundation said that the Comcast and AT&T Foundations together contributed $85,000. ^
  9. Cornelius A. Fortune, “Malcolm X Academy and Big Brothers Big Sisters Receive Comcast Grants,” Michigan Chronicle, September 26, 2007. ^
  10. “Comcast And The National Black Caucus of State Legislators Partner in Broadband Fellowship,” press release from Comcast, December 7, 2009. ^
  11. “Comcast Commits $2.4 Million In Support And Services To The American Indian College Fund,” press release from Comcast, November 27, 2013.”Comcast and NBCUniversal Donate Over $5 Million In Advertising In Partnership With American Indian College Fund To Raise Awareness About Higher Education Needs in Native American Communities,” press release from the American Indian College Fund. October 15, 2014. ^
  12. “Comcast Foundation Grant Supplements National Urban Indian Capacity-Building Project,” press release from the First Nations Development Institute, February 13, 2014.  “Comcast NBCUniversal Commits $2 Million in Airtime to First Nations Development Institute,” press release from the First Nations Development Institute, February 3, 2015, ^
  13. “First Nations and NIUPC Receive Additional $50,000 Comcast Foundation Grant To Supplement Urban Indian Capacity-Building Project,” press release from the First Nations Development Institute, August 4, 2014. ^
  14. “Cable Industry Launches ‘Our Time To Vote,” a $5 Million National Multi-cultural Voter Education and Registration Campaign:  Public Service,” press release from Comcast, December 13, 2007. ^
  15. Bob Fernandez, “Comcast People Obama Big Givers,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 4, 2011.  In the 2020 election cycle, Comcast and its employees donated $5.2 million to political action committees associated with Democrats, including $1.1 million to the Joe Biden campaign, but only  $400,000 to the Republican National Committee and $170,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/comcast-corp/summary?id=d000000461 (accessed March 25, 2021) ^
  16. Bob Fernandez, “Comcast People Obama Big Givers,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 4, 2011.  In the 2020 election cycle, Comcast and its employees donated $5.2 million to political action committees associated with Democrats, including $1.1 million to the Joe Biden campaign, but only  $400,000 to the Republican National Committee and $170,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/comcast-corp/summary?id=d000000461 (accessed March 25, 2021) ^
  17. Comcast NBCUniversal 2019 Form 990. ^
  18. https://corporate.comcast.com/news-information/leadership-overview/david-l-cohen (accessed March 25, 2011). ^
  19. Todd Shields, Stephanie Green, and Laura Litvan, “Congress Never Has To Wait For the Cable Guy,” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 10, 2014. ^
  20. Eric Lipton, “Comcast’s Web of Lobbying and Philanthropy,” New York Times, February 27, 2014. ^
  21. Eric Lipton, “Recipients of Comcast Donations Back Merger,” New York Times, April 6, 2015.  Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation 2019 Form 990. ^
  22. Eric Lipton, “Recipients of Comcast Donations Back Merger,” New York Times, April 6, 2015.  Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation 2019 Form 990. ^
  23. Eric Lipton, “Comcast’s Web of Lobbying and Philanthropy,” New York Times, February 27, 2014. ^
  24. Holly Yeager, “Comcast’s Deep Ties, Largesse Might Factor Into Merger Effort,” Washington Post, March 1, 2014. ^
  25. Jonathan Tamari, “Comcast’s Ambitious Giving,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 28, 2014. ^
  26. David McCabe, “Charter To Buy Time Warner Cable for $57B,” The Hill, May 27, 2015. ^
  27. Edward Wyatt, “Obama’s Net Neutrality Bid Divides Civil Rights Groups,” New York Times, December 8, 2014. ^
  28. “Comcast Corporation Names Dalila Wilson-Scott Senior Vice President,” press release from Comcast, March 3, 2016. ^
  29. “Comcast Corporation promotes Dalila Wilson-Scott To Dalila Wilson-Scott To Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer,” press release from Comcast, October 7, 2020. ^
  30. “’Project innovation’ Grant Supports Non-Profit Programs Creating Positive Change in Local Communities,” press release rom Comcast, May 13, 2020, https://corporate.comcast.com/press/releases/nbcuniversal-foundation-project-innovation-grant-program-non-profit-programs (accessed March 24, 2021) ^
  31. Kristen A. Graham, “Internet To Be Free For 35,000 Families,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 7, 2020. ^
  32. “Comcast RISE To Award $5 Million in Grants to BIPOC-Owned Businesses,” press release from Comcast, February 7, 2021. ^
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Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation

1 Comcast Center, 48th floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103