Issa probes FCC's close ties to White House

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wants to know if the White House is pulling the strings at the Federal Communications Commission, a supposedly independent agency.

In a March 24 letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Issa demands the details about frequent visits by agency brass to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The congressman is particularly concerned that the White House may be quietly playing a significant role in shaping Genachowski's controversial agenda -- which includes tough, new network-neutrality rules for the Internet.

The agency's three Democrats approved the Internet regulations in December over the objections of the two GOP commissioners, Republican lawmakers, and some broadband companies.

Genachowski visited the White House 81 times between January 2009 and November 2010, according to White House logs, Issa writes. This equals the number of visits by the secretaries of five other agencies during the same time period, he adds.

But some of the visits occurred before Genachowski arrived at the FCC. He was nominated in March 2009 and sworn into office three months later.

Eddie Lazarus, Genachowski's chief of staff, made roughly 60 trips to the White House during that period, Issa notes. Genachowski is a Harvard Law School buddy of President Obama, and served as a technology adviser for his presidential campaign.

In his missive, Issa demands that the FCC provide a log of all meetings with the White House and furnish any documents, including e-mails, that the agency shared with the White House on net-neutrality.

The congressman also complains that Genachowski failed to adequately reply to his previous letters seeking details about the agency's close connections to the White House.

A senior FCC official said in a written response that many of the meetings were related to the agency's creation of the nation's first National Broadband Plan, a ten-year technology blueprint released in March 2010.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec