Manipulated and withheld data to influece Congressional decisions...
For the past year Congress has been conducting a bi-partisan investigation of FCC boss Kevin Martin, sending him a letter
(pdf) last August demanding a wide variety of documentation from the agency. Martin's tendency to rush meetings, leak information, favor certain companies and "pick on cable" have put the FCC boss under fire from all fronts. Congress has finally released their 110 page report
(pdf), showing what they call "egregious abuses of power." Says Congressman John D. Dingell:
"Any of these findings, individually, are cause for concern. Together, the findings suggest that, in recent years, the FCC has operated in a dysfunctional manner and Commission business has suffered as a result. It is my hope that the new FCC Chairman will find this report instructive and that it will prove useful in helping the Commission avoid making the same mistakes."
The report highlights several examples of favoritism, including an instance where Martin leaked information on a T-Mobile Do Not Call violation fine to the company early, then helped to get the fine reduced to just $100,000. Martin is slammed for being a partisan who manipulates or ignores data at his leisure in order to support his positions (BPL is cited), or the positions of select companies.
But the report also seems to suggest that Martin covered his posterior well. In several instances of supposed favoritism (including one involving Verizon), the investigators strongly hint at impropriety, but lacked sufficient evidence. The report suggests that the normal next course of action would be to hold a broader hearing, but "due to the climate of fear that currently pervades the FCC," the Committee investigators say witnesses are afraid to come forward.
Robert Kenny, a spokesman for Martin, says the report "did not find or conclude that there were any violations of rules, laws or procedures." "Chairman Martin has followed the same procedures that have been followed for the past 20 years by FCC Chairmen, both Democratic and Republican alike," he says.
Martin's tenure has been controversial to say the least, with even some very technically suave people believing
that his tendency to annoy everyone
means he's doing his job right. But as we've repeatedly noted, Martin's consumer advocacy is more showmanship
than substance, and he's stripped away consumer protections at nearly every turn. His most controversial decisions (usually involving cable) are done in large part to please incumbent phone operators
or family values groups
-- both of which he'll lean on heavily in a future political career.
Martin is expected to resign from his position at the FCC once the Obama team takes over the White House. However, the vetting process for new FCC bosses could mean Martin remains in his position for another four to six months. While no action will likely result from this investigation, it may just prove a useful guide for future FCC Commissioners on what not