House Oversight Committee demands FCC records

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, has given FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski until April 6 to provide a series of requested records on network neutrality rules proposed by the commission. He argued that the FCC’s initial response was insufficient.

House Republicans, now in control of the body, are against any form of net neutrality. Issa is using his power to seek numerous e-mails, correspondence, logs and other data about communication between the FCC and the White House on the issue. He wants Genachowski to explain numerous White House visits between January 2009 and November 2010, considering that the FCC chairman is a personal friend and former Harvard Law School classmate of President Barack Obama, the president made net neutrality a major issue in his 2008 presidential campaign and he appointed Genachowski to lead the effort at the FCC.

“The large volume and timing of these (White House) meetings gives the appearance that they are more than coincidental,” Issa wrote to Genachowski last week.

Genachowski told Issa that FCC attorneys were not aware of any violations of ex parte rules concerning conversations FCC officials may or may not have had with the administration about its network neutrality rulemaking.

But that was not enough for Issa, who cited reports that “Obama administration officials had knowledge of and potentially contributed to crafting of these proposed regulations (now approved).” He also pointed to the fact that on Sept. 21, 2009, both the chairman and the president had separately, and almost simultaneously, announced the plan to propose net neutrality regulations. That, Issa claimed, would be a violation of ex parte rules, which, he said, would require that coordination be publicly disclosed. He also called it a “serious breach of the independent proceedings of the FCC.”

Genachowski said the Communications Act allows the chairman to represent the commission in meetings with other government officials and agencies. He also said that the relevant ex parte procedural disclosure rules generally don’t apply until the agency releases a notice of proposed rulemaking.

Issa also reminded Genachowski that the Republicans, now holding a majority in the House, can make his life miserable on nearly any issue.

“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and may at ‘any time’ investigate ‘any matter’ as set forth in House Rule X,” Issa wrote. “We request that you provide the requested documents and information relevant to these inquiries as soon as possible, but no later than 5 p.m. on April 6.”