Martin moves to the Capitol Hill front burner


Winter is slowly starting to take hold in Washington DC, but for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, it’s the heat, not the cold, that is intensifying. Citing "procedural breakdowns," congressional warhorse John Dingell (D-MI) is using one of his Energy & Commerce subcommittees to focus on Martin’s stewardship of the FCC. This would be on top of hearings today in another of Dingell’s subcommittee and still another in the Senate next week.

Today’s session is pegged for the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, bailiwick of Ed Markey (D-MA) and the normal House terminal for FCC affairs. Dingell is instead referring to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Bart Stupak (D-MI). Stupak said, "I have received several complaints from the public and professionals within the communications industry about how Chairman Martin is conducting business at the FCC. It is one thing to be an aggressive leader, but many of the allegations indicate possible abuse of power and an attempt to intentionally keep fellow Commissioners in the dark. I look forward to investigating these concerns to be sure that the FCC Chairman is not disenfranchising his fellow Commissioners and the American public he is supposed to serve."

Dingell said, "Procedural breakdowns at the agency tasked with overseeing communications laws for our entire nation jeopardize the public interest it is bound to serve. Our nation is founded on fair, open, and transparent government, and the Federal Communications Commission is certainly no exception. When that openness and transparency is compromised, so too is public confidence in the agency."

RBR/TVBR observation: Martin has done a superb job of walking the tightrope in Washington. When his term as Chairman began, he presided over a 2-2 partisan split while waiting for the gears of government to grind out a third Republican to replace his predecessor, Michael Powell. Until that event, Martin busily cleared the agenda of mostly non-controversial issues, and since the arrival of Robert McDowell (R) has only gradually worked his way up to the more controversial issues. His political skills have been compared favorably to those of Powell (of whom many would say he lacked any), and Martin was even able to fend off a surprise attack from Barbara Boxer (D-CA) at his reconfirmation hearing in the Senate. Soft-spoken and accommodating when on the Hill, he has largely avoided any major confrontations. Until now. Today should offer a preview of what Stupak and Dingell have in store.