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Dish CEO and Biden in a political quid pro quo

Dish CEO and Biden in a political quid pro quo

Major donors to political campaigns expect and receive special treatment.  Minimally, they expect access – that the officeholder will take their call.  They often expect special considerations – from appointments to boards and commissions to business grants or contracts.

It has always been and always will be – part of human nature, the political reality.  To the victor go the spoils, as the saying goes.  When major donors help finance a successful campaign, they expect some “spoils.”  No election finance reform can completely eliminate that reality.  At best, laws can and do restrict the more flagrant cases of financial campaign abuse.

In terms of campaign donations, there is a wide grey area between clearly legal and harmless contributions and clearly illegal and maliciously motivated contributions.  A case in point involves President Biden and Dish Network, the company responsible for all those flying saucers on roofs across America.  The Company appears to have gotten a huge amount of quo for its quid.

The background

For almost ten years the Vermont National Telephone Company has been engaged in a dispute with Dish Network — since the closing days of the Obama administration.  Vermont Telephone filed a lawsuit claiming Dish had violated the False Claims Act.

Vermont Telephone claimed that Dish had manipulated Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, enabling Dish to get certified for discounts on wireless spectrum licenses to which the Company was allegedly not entitled. 

Vermont Telephone sought $3.3 billion dollars in damages – enough to potentially put Dish out of business. 

It is very rare for the Department of Justice to interfere with such cases.  And in 2022 and 2023, the Civil Division of the Biden Justice Department opposed requests to dismiss the Vermont Telephone case. 

The facts

Weeell … things changed in 2024.  The Justice Department moved to have the case dismissed.  Since the facts of the case had not changed in almost a decade, what DID change?

Perhaps it was the $113,000 Dish CEO Charlie Ergen and his wife, Candy, donated to the Biden campaign in December of 2023 – approximately three months before the dismissal.  The Ergens’ generosity was composed of two maximum $6,600 personal contributions to the campaign and $100,000 to the Biden super PAC.

One month after the $113,200 contributions – in January of 2024 – Dish received a $50 million grant to expand its 5G service – one of the largest such grants. That money came from Biden’s Chips and Science Act – essentially a presidential slush fund.

Following the $50 million grant, the DOJ exposed its hand.  It attempted to intimidate Vermont Telephone into an “unethical settlement” according to the Company attorneys.  The hammer was a threat of a DOJ dismissal of the lawsuit – which it did recently.

According to Vermont Telephone lead attorney Bennett Ross, “It appears that the effect — if not the purpose — of the DOJ’s rush to seek dismissal of this case is to protect Mr. Ergen from being questioned under oath.”  Mrs. Ergen was also scheduled to testify.

Ross told the Court:

“With the upcoming election, this case looks like just the latest example of the DOJ’s two-tiered justice system under which the well-heeled, politically connected are treated one way, while everyone else is treated differently.”

Ross further stated:

“The Defendants short-changed the government $3.3 billion, an amount that remains unpaid to this day.” They also corrupted a program designed to benefit real small businesses, distorted the FCC auction process, and thwarted the deployment of wireless spectrum for the benefit of the public. The Defendants should be held accountable.”

Dish is not likely to be held accountable.  What they did may not even be held to be illegal in a court of law – and not likely to get that far.  But … if it sounds like a bribe, looks like a bribe and smells like a bribe … well, you know the rest.

Summary

The DOJ Motion to Dismiss is currently pending in the District of Columbia District Court of Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.  Unfortunately, this is the kind of case in which justice and the public interest will NOT be served.  Too much quid to undo the quo.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.