Law Student Consumer Group More than Just Law Students and Consumers
21 Corporate Crime Reporter 10, February 28, 2007

A group calling itself the Consumer Coalition for Competition in Satellite Radio (C3SR) popped up on the inside-the-beltway radar screen this week.

The group says it is a consumer group of law students who subscribe to satellite radio and who want to stop the merger between XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.

The group took out full page ads this week in Roll Call and Congress Daily (“A satellite radio monopoly would be free to do anything it wants to consumers and independent programmers. That’s why there are antitrust laws.”)

In its press release, the group’s founder, Chris Reale, a part-time law student at George Washington University Law School, says that the group’s main goal is to “stop this merger.”

"If a merger were to be approved, subscribers would likely end up paying more for less programming, and would end up subsidizing unwanted services,” Reale said.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is also taking out ads and testifying against the merger.

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) says the merger is suspect.

“Not all critics play in the same big league as the NAB and the CFA,” the Politico reported earlier this week. “Law school student subscribers, calling themselves the Consumer Coalition for Competition in Satellite Radio (C3SR), will resist the merger as well. Chris Reale, a founder of C3SR, said, ‘A monopoly satellite radio provider would be able to raise prices and cut programming to a growing number of consumers that have come to rely on satellite radio for news and entertainment.’”

Wait a second.

Since when did law students have the money, time, and know-how to run such a public relations campaign?

Since never.

In fact, Reale works full time at Williams Mullen Strategies – the lobbying arm of the Williams Mullen law firm – whose communications practice is headed by Julian Shepard – a former assistant general counsel at NAB.

Reale won’t say who is funding his “consumer group,” but he says the NAB “supports” the group.

He refuses to identify the nature of NAB’s support.

The Consumer Coalition’s web site says its offices are at 1718 M Street, NW, Suite 265, Washington, DC 20036.

But that’s the office of the UPS Store on M Street.

And “suite” 265 is in fact a small postal box at the UPS Store.

The web site says the group’s phone number is 202.558.7024.

Call that number of you get the Consumer Coalition’s answering machine.

Call Williams Mullen and ask for Chris Reale.

And you get the same answering machine.

Reale says Williams Mullen Strategies is supporting the Consumer Coalition.

Did they start it?

“No, myself and a group of other law students started it,” he says. “We were interested in antitrust issues. My work here at Williams Mullen Strategies is incidental.”

Well, does Williams Mullen support the Consumer Coalition?

“They support what I’m doing in that they hope to turn it into a client if it becomes a significant player,” Reale says.

The group is not incorporated at the moment, Reale said.

Does Williams Mullen Strategies have any communication companies or NAB as a client?

“No,” Reale says.

“The project was my idea personally,” he says. “I am receiving support from Williams Mullen Strategies.”

What kind of support?

“They give me time to do this,” he said.

Is Williams Mullen Strategies billing anybody for your work?

“No,” Reale says.

What about Williams Mullen the law firm?

“I don’t have access to who their clients are,” he says. “They are not billing for the Consumer Coalition. But I don’t know who their communications clients are.”

How many law students are in your group?

“About ten or twelve have expressed interest,” he says. “About four or five have started it.”

Other than yourself, who are the law students who started the group?

“I don’t want to disclose their names.”

Why not disclose your funding sources?

“If we were out there in the media telling people who funded us, it would detract from support from different groups,” Reale said. “I didn’t think that was a wise course.”


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