The head of a trade association that represents competitors of the large regional telephone companies resigned after his lobbying plan was published by mistake on the Federal Communications Commission's Web site.
John D. Windhausen Jr., president of the Association for Local Telecommunication Services (ALTS), resigned yesterday after an uproar over the document, which starkly characterized the policy positions of FCC members and lawmakers and described the need for the association to hire, for $120,000 a year, a "heavyweight Republican [lobbyist] that can navigate between the FCC chairman and the White House."
The document, written by Windhausen and presented recently to chief executives of his member companies, was posted on the FCC Web site only briefly last week but was there long enough to have been downloaded by communications lobbyists and lawyers. It is now the talk of telecom insiders.
The document was filed to the FCC by an attorney for Alpheus Communications LP, an ALTS member company. The filing, by Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman LLP lawyer Joshua M. Bobeck, was supposed to be a disclosure that the company and its lawyers had met with FCC staff members. But it also included the document. "It was totally a mistake," Windhausen said. Bobeck said he could not discuss the matter.
Details of a lobbying strategy -- and lobbyists' assessments of the officials they lobby -- are usually top secret. Lawmakers and regulators exhibit a strong distaste for any hint that interest groups are working to manipulate them, even though that is precisely what lobbyists regularly do.
The disclosure of the candid document embarrassed ALTS and subjected it to ridicule among other lobbying organizations. The incident was also the latest in a series of setbacks suffered by ALTS in recent months. The FCC and federal courts have ruled that regional telephone companies no longer are required to share key parts of their telephone networks with rivals, including ALTS member companies. The result of those decisions is likely to make it more difficult for ALTS member companies to compete for customers.
Asked if the publication of the document precipitated his resignation, Windhausen said: "It was a factor. It was the proximate cause. I think there was a danger that the publication of the document could jeopardize ALTS's credibility with several of the key policymakers.
"It was a very clumsy effort to capture their [the decision makers'] views and I wish that I had been more vigilant, either being more precise or not writing anything at all."
Windhausen said he phoned to apologize to FCC commissioners, some of whom were angered by the document. "Some of the offices said it [the document] was improper and they really did want the apology," Windhausen said.
The document alleged that FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell will support President Bush's push for high-speed Internet growth "before the election" and that Commissioner Kathleen Q. Abernathy, also a Republican, "will follow the lead of the Chairman."
It also said that Commissioner Michael J. Copps, a Democrat, was a "strong advocate" for ALTS's members but that his "unwillingness to compromise could be problematic." Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein, also a Democrat, "also follows Copps' lead," the document stated.
The document characterized the positions of the most senior members of the House and Senate commerce committees, which oversee telecommunications policy. For instance, it states that the chairman in the Senate, John McCain (R-Ariz.), was "negative" on ALTS issues but that the potential incoming chairman, Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), was "positive."
In addition, the document said ALTS has "helped" with five fundraising events this year, for Stevens, Sens. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) and Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr. (R-Miss.). It also suggested that ALTS and its member firms needed to raise even more money for lawmakers.