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AT&T's big $1 billion tax bill investment was announced 6 weeks ago

Paul Ryan liked it then too.

President Donald Trump and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson
President Donald Trump and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson
AFP/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

AT&T on Wednesday announced plans to invest an additional $1 billion in the United States after the passage of the Republican tax bill. President Trump read the announcement at a ceremony at the White House celebrating the tax bill on Wednesday afternoon. “That’s pretty good,” he said.

It was also pretty good when AT&T made essentially the same announcement in November.

The telecom giant heralded the GOP’s tax bill, which both the Senate and House passed this week, as a measure that will “spur much-needed investment and economic growth” in a statement from CEO Randall Stephenson released on Wednesday. In a separate release, AT&T said it would make an additional billion-dollar investment in the United States in 2018 and pay 200,000 of its US employees a $1,000 bonus in celebration — with the extra cash coming before Christmas if President Donald Trump signs the bill in time.

While the bonus announcement was new, the planned additional investment wasn’t — AT&T announced on November 8 that it would step up US investment by $1 billion if a tax bill passed. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s press office posted the announcement on his website at the time, touting it as “yet another example of why we need to get tax reform done” this year. “This goes directly to the heart of our case for tax reform,” he said.

To be sure, AT&T isn’t the first company to recycle old news to impress Trump. Intel, for example, in February announced a multibillion-dollar investment in a semiconductor factory in Arizona during a visit to the White House. As BuzzFeed pointed out, the company made the same announcement in 2011, also alongside a president — Barack Obama.

AT&T in August hosted House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) at its Dallas headquarters for a town hall on taxes. During the meeting, Stephenson urged AT&T employees to call their representatives.

AT&T’s Wednesday announcement could also be read as an effort to get into Trump’s good graces.

The Justice Department is suing to block the company’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, and some have questioned whether the lawsuit could be motivated by Trump’s animus toward CNN, which Time Warner owns. But it’s highly unlikely the DOJ will now say, “Okay, deal approved,” because AT&T is spending some extra money in the United States.

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