As promised: FCC under investigation


The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has initiated its look at processes at the Kevin Martin FCC, as promised. In a letter to Martin, it said document request would be coming soon, and that it wants all FCC employees to be on notice that their testimony may be required. It also asked that all paper and electronic documentation in existence at this moment be preserved pending the document request.

E&C Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) and subcommittee Chair Bart Stupak (D-MI) were joined by the respective ranking members, Joe Barton (R-TX) and John Shimkus (R-IL) in the letter.

The legislators wanted Martin to remind employees that there is no right among management "to deny or interfere with their rights to furnish information to Congress," and to remind management that it is illegal to retaliate against whistleblowers.

Any routine document destruction is to be halted immediately: "…no such records shall be destroyed, modified, altered, deleted, removed, relocated, or otherwise negligently or intentionally handled so as to make them inaccessible to the Committee."

RBR/TVBR observation: This investigation figures to center on charges that lobbyists have far greater access to the Commission than do advocacy groups, and address reports that lobbyists have at times been tipped off about upcoming FCC actions; complaints, principally from the Democratic commissioners, that they are often out of the loop when certain actions are being prepped, have inadequate access to FCC resources, and are not given enough time to fully study issues before they are put forth for a vote; and that documentation is both initiated to arrive at a preordained conclusion, or suppressed if it fails to support a preordained conclusion.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has addressed these types of questions frequently over the course of the last year or two, and has patiently attempted justify his approach as being consistent with long-standing FCC procedure.

Dingell and Stupak will be joined by Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee Chair Ed Markey (D-MA) as aggressive questioners. On the other side of the aisle, Barton, Shimkus and other Republicans may well offer Martin some sympathy. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, with the easing of top-20 market cross-ownership restrictions and a national election looming large in the background.