WA Attorney General Joins Fed Lawsuit Blocking AT&T and T-Mobile

9/16/11Follow @curtwoodward

Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna, the Republican favorite for governor in 2012, has joined his counterparts from six other states to support the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit blocking AT&T’s proposed $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile USA.

It’s not unusual for state governments to get involved in cases like this, particularly when there may be some business or consumer impact on their residents. In McKenna’s case, of course, part of the motivation is that T-Mobile is based in Bellevue, WA. As Politico noted, “Washington … stands to lose, potentially, many jobs if the transaction is approved.” The other states involved are California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

In his announcement about the lawsuit, McKenna said allowing the buyout would lead to fewer choices and higher prices for consumers. “If the deal goes through, two companies will control roughly three quarters of mobile subscribers in the U.S.,” McKenna wrote. “Antitrust laws exist to prevent such strangleholds over products and services.”

McKenna had previously said he shared the DOJ’s concerns about the merger, but this is obviously a much stronger step. McKenna’s Democratic opponent for governor, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, also opposes the merger. Inslee has publicly criticized the two companies’ responses to his request for more details about the effects of the buyout, and applauded the DOJ’s lawsuit, saying “the last thing Washingtonians need are more layoffs, increases in their wireless bills and fewer choices for wireless service.”

McKenna joining the lawsuit will turn some heads because Republicans are generally friendlier with business than Democrats. But it’s been a long time since the GOP elected a governor in Washington, and the consumer and local-jobs angles to opposing this deal are probably winners with the voting public.

One last note: I checked the state campaign contribution database to see how the candidates were faring with any money from AT&T or T-Mobile. I couldn’t find any contributions to the candidates or to their respective parties’ major political action committees. Both McKenna and Inslee did have some small contributions from individual employees.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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