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White Space: Conservative Groups Back Broadcasters’ Position

A cluster of conservative groups is echoing the position of broadcasters in urging FCC restraint on its plan for widespread unlicensed transmissions on the “white spaces” between DTV channels.

Various groups—including a backer of a federal flat tax and one with a front-page story claiming Barack Obama would not qualify for an FBI security clearance—signed on to a letter urging more transparency at the FCC on the white space issue; a second later, signed by a different combination of groups, urges an auction of the frequencies. Both letters echo the NAB's position that the FCC should open the proposed rules for comment.

NAB has recommended white space use at lower power levels and with more restrictions than FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has proposed. A vote on the matter is scheduled at the FCC for Nov. 4, Election Day.

The groups signing the letters are little-known outside conservative advocacy circles in Washington. In a joint press release, they call themselves “more than 20 public interest, public policy and government watchdog groups,” although its unclear how, for example, Background Checks International Inc., falls into those categories.

At least one of the groups on the list—the Government Accountability Project, a whistle-blower advocacy group, does not appear to have a conservative or libertarian bent.

Among the libertarian-leaning groups are the Center for Privacy and Human Rights (founded 2005), run by a former staffer of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a candidate for president and former libertarian. Another group, the Liberty Coalition, also stresses privacy and civil rights.

Among the other groups:

*The American Civil Rights Union has two main themes at the front of its Web page—“outrages” of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the issue of voter fraud.

*The American Legislative Exchange Council has been described by the lefty People for the American Way as "a right-wing public policy organization with strong ties to major corporations, trade associations and right-wing politicians" with an agenda that "includes rolling back civil rights, challenging government restrictions on corporate pollution, limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters."

*Let Freedom Ring raises concern about Islamic influence in the international banking system and includes on its Web site an interview with a former FBI assistant director who says Obama would not be granted an FBI security clearance.

*The Media Freedom Project (not to be confused with the pro-white space Media Access Project) advocates against net neutrality and against rules restricting media consolidation. It’s a project of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, which also signed the letters and advocates a national flat tax.

*Frontiers of Freedom, based in Fairfax, Va., calls Obama “the American Gorbachev” and warns on its front page, “Obama apologizes for America’s prosperity, liberty and greatness. Obama also wants to redistribute the wealth to his partisans as a reward for their support of him both at home and abroad.”

*The Institute for Liberty says its fights “petty tyrannies of government.” Its front page celebrates the candidacy of Sarah Palin, and its past efforts have included a demand that the government send a “thank-you note” to taxpayers.

*The 60 Plus Association calls itself a conservative alternative to AARP. AARP calls the group a front for pharmaceutical companies.

*The National Defense Council Foundation shares its chairman, James L. Martin, with the 60 Plus Association, where he is president.

*The Competitive Enterprise Institute (not to be confused with the conservative American Enterprise Institute) boasts a $5 million budget and 30 staffers. Its small-government advocacy includes work expressing doubt that humans are causing global climate change.

*Americans for Prosperity is run by Art Pope, heir to Variety Wholesalers Inc., a 400-plus-outlet retail company. Pope is also a former Republican congressman from North Carolina.

*The CapitalResearchCenter is a watchdog of nonprofit, union and philanthropic activity. Its two top staffers are alums of the conservative Heritage Institute.

*The Rule of Law Committee is run by William Shaker, co-founder of The Washington Group, which claims to have raised $12 million for the presidential campaign of Republican Allan Keyes in 2000.