As Congress Examines FCC, Chairman May Be Asked to Defend His Leadership

By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin might be called to defend himself in a hearing on his leadership after a congressional investigation turned up complaints about the way he runs the agency, according to a memo obtained yesterday by The Washington Post.

Martin has been criticized by FCC staff members for pushing his proposals to loosen media ownership rules and requirements for a la carte pricing of cable television through such tactics as suppressing agency studies that do not support his agenda.

"The bottom line is that the FCC process appears broken and most of the blame appears to rest with Chairman Martin," Commerce and Energy Committee staff members wrote in the April 28 memo to Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

A committee spokesman declined to elaborate on the findings, saying only, "No hearings have been scheduled." An FCC spokesman also declined to comment on the memo.

The memo to Dingell and Stupak said the investigation is ongoing and proposed holding hearings on the findings in June. According to the memo, more than 30 current and former FCC employees were interviewed, along with telecommunications industry representatives and private citizens. The memo was the first indication that the investigation, launched in December, has turned up material to support complaints against Martin.

The bipartisan investigation intensified in early March, when the committee requested a trove of e-mails, memos, handwritten notes and meeting schedules dating back three years from Martin, a Republican, the four other commissioners and staffers.

In a letter to Martin then, the committee said the investigation related "to management practices that may adversely affect the commission's ability both to discharge effectively its statutory duties and to guard against waste, fraud and abuse."

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