U.S. Capitol.
U.S. Capitol. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ.)

Comcast Corp. has added two top former Capitol Hill antitrust counsels to its lobbying group ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing next month on the company’s plan to merge with Time Warner Cable.

Seth Bloom, former general counsel to the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee under retired Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., registered as a lobbyist for Comcast this month, according to a Senate lobbying record posted Tuesday. Bloom, who worked for the committee for 13 years, started Bloom Strategic Counsel after Kohl retired at the end of 2012.

Bloom guided the subcommittee’s probe of AT&T Inc.’s proposed merger in 2011 with T-Mobile USA, which Kohl opposed. After federal regulators moved to challenge the $39 billion bid, AT&T abandoned the effort, an outcome Bloom later said was one of the subcommittee’s “singular accomplishments” in recent years.

Holland & Knight’s Paul Bock, who was Kohl’s chief of staff from 1997 to 2009 and his counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, registered as a lobbyist in February for Comcast. Bock lists antitrust as one of his areas of expertise. Kohl was a longtime member of the antitrust subcommittee.

The addition of Bloom and Bock add antitrust and committee insight to the broad Comcast lobbying machine—which records show spent $18.7 million on lobbying in 2013—ahead of an April 2 hearing on Capitol Hill. The company is expected to face tough questions from at least one member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has voiced concerns about the deal to regulators and the Federal Communications Commission.

Franken told the Justice Department on Wednesday in a letter that he is concerned Comcast could use its broadband market clout to manipulate content and prices. He also said he is worried how the deal would affect what would happen after Comcast’s net neutrality obligations—which the FCC put in place after the company’s acquisition of NBC Universal in 2011—expire in 2018.

“Simply put, the Internet belongs to the people, not to huge corporations,” Franken wrote in the letter to DOJ. “Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable could disrupt this balance of power, resulting in higher costs and fewer choices for consumers.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the judiciary committee said in a March 12 statement that Comcast’s plans to purchase Time Warner would result in the merger of the two dominant cable companies. He announced a full Senate Judiciary Committee hearing called, “Examining the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger and the Impact on Consumers.”

“Millions of Americans rely on cable connectivity to receive the programs they love and to access the Internet at the fast speed needed as we conduct more of our lives online,” Leahy said. “The pending merger is an important opportunity to examine how Americans access these valuable services as the video and online marketplace continue to evolve.”

Comcast declined to comment for this story. Bloom and Bock did not immediately return request for comment today.