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House GOP Probes White House Role In FCC’s Net-Neutrality Proposal

Politics Tribune News Service

House GOP Probes White House Role In FCC’s Net-Neutrality Proposal

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By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The House Republican majority’s top watchdog is launching an investigation into whether the White House improperly influenced the net-neutrality proposal released last week by the head of the Federal Communications Commission.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has written to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler asking for all documents related to communications and meetings involving White House and agency officials concerning the issue.

Last week, Wheeler proposed strict new federal oversight of online traffic to ensure Internet providers don’t give preference to video and other content from some websites over others.

Most Republicans strongly oppose the FCC’s approach, which would classify Internet service in the same way as highly regulated phone companies

Wheeler’s plan, circulated to his fellow commissioners ahead of a Feb. 26 vote, is much tougher than what he initially outlined early last year and closely follows the approach President Barack Obama publicly called for in November.

Although the president nominates the chairman and other FCC commissioners, the agency is independent and not supposed to be subject to White House control. Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cable-TV and wireless industries who was a major fundraiser for Obama, was nominated to head the FCC in 2013.

Republicans have charged that Obama unduly influenced Wheeler’s proposal. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said Wheeler “succumbed to the bully tactics of political activists and the president himself.”

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said “the White House needs to get its hands off the FCC.” And Ajit Pai, one of two Republicans on the FCC, has called Wheeler’s proposal, “President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet.”

Chaffetz said in a letter dated Friday that he was investigating reports indicating “views expressed by the White House potentially had an improper influence” on development of Wheeler’s proposal.

He cited a Wall Street Journal article last week that reported that two White House aides led a “secretive effort” to build support from outside groups for tough net-neutrality regulations.

The article did not indicate that the aides, Obama or other White House officials directly pressured Wheeler to take the more aggressive approach.

FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart said the agency was aware of the letter, sent Friday, and was reviewing it. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Gigi Sohn, the FCC’s special counsel for external affairs, said Friday that Wheeler’s position on net-neutrality rules had been evolving before Obama made his public comments.

“I think what the president’s statement did was, rather than force the chairman’s hand, was give him cover to do something he already was thinking about doing,” Sohn said in an appearance on C-Span’s The Communicators¬†series.

Chaffetz asked for all documents, including calendar appointments, visitor logs and meeting minutes, related to communications between the FCC and the White House concerning net neutrality since Jan. 14, 2014, when a federal court struck down most of the agency’s rules governing online traffic.

The FCC must provide the documents no later than Feb. 20, six days before commissioners are scheduled to vote on Wheeler’s proposal, Chaffetz said.

Photo: ALA Washington Office via Flickr

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14 Comments

  1. dana becker February 9, 2015

    Does it interfere with the GOP plan to serve us up to their masters at Comcast, Verizon and ATT?

    Reply
  2. Insinnergy February 9, 2015

    I notice it’s only “bully tactics” and undue influence when Obama does it.
    Somehow taking oodles of Comcast or Time/Warner money and voting for what they want in terms of laws is all good though.

    Reply
  3. Sand_Cat February 9, 2015

    Do I see another “Benghazi”? How many idiots can they recruit this time in their crusade to crush internet users for the profits of corporate America?

    Reply
  4. Stuart February 10, 2015

    Impeach! Impeach! Keep that fruitcake money rolling in.

    Reply
  5. Buford2k11 February 10, 2015

    this is a good one….All you good and trustworthy Republicans cannot say a word until you give back all the bribes that you have taken from your corporate masters…

    Reply
  6. Donald Hoffman February 10, 2015

    this is all you’re going to get out of the Republicans control of the House, is investigation investigation investigation. Talk about wasting the taxpayers money that’s what they’re there for. Still playing the same game they always play obstruction obstruction

    Reply
    1. Dominick Vila February 10, 2015

      Unfortunately, their majority in the House is so large that it will take a few elections before Democrats have a realistic chance of taking control of the House. To make matters worse, there are more Red or Purple states, than there are Blue. Some Red states may be sparsely populated, and very poor, but they can elect the same number of Senators as progressive, wealthy, states such as California or New York, and when it comes to congressional representatives, they are united in pursuing the resurrection of the confederacy and paving the way for the Second Coming of the Lord.

      Reply
  7. Dominick Vila February 10, 2015

    I am understanding this issue correctly? The Republican controlled House of Representatives is investigating potential involvement by the White House in the FCC decision to protect free market principles? Have these people gone nuts?

    Reply
    1. CrankyToo February 10, 2015

      Yeah. About 30 years ago, as you well know.

      Reply
  8. jakenhyde February 10, 2015

    The republicons have come out against gays, women’s rights, the ACA, and numerous other items that affect certain segments of American society. And so far, they’ve survived to an extent.
    But this bit of obstructionism will affect everyone in the country who uses the internet….from youngsters in school to retired folks who depend on the internet as a form of entertainment, banking, etc.
    They are once again proving that they have no regard whatever for the common man. Just when they are “saying” that they want to improve their collective image as the party of the people, they push for even more elitism by trying to get rid of net neutrality.
    Seems that republicons can’t get out of their own way.
    To us commons folks I say: When November of 2016 comes rolling around, remember how well the republicons have treated us since 2008.

    Reply
  9. Allan Richardson February 10, 2015

    So the White House has been lobbying the FCC, which is part of the Executive Branch, trying to persuade it of a certain policy? And that is somehow OK when Republicans do it, but corrupt when Democrats do it?

    Reply
  10. elw February 10, 2015

    Another investigation going no where. Does he honestly think that the President of the United States should not be able to express his views in order to influence people? I think there should be an investigation to show how much money the Republicans are wasting on nonsensical investigations.

    Reply
  11. Miles Ahway February 10, 2015

    Hussein Obama is like the Mohammed Atta of presidents.

    Reply
    1. Dominick Vila February 10, 2015

      The depth of your comment is a welcome respite for readers looking for demonstrations of immaturity.

      Reply

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