FCC Chief Is Silent in Probe

Staffers have said FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin had suppressed reports that didn't support his agenda.
Staffers have said FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin had suppressed reports that didn't support his agenda. (By Kimberly White -- Bloomberg News)
By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lawmakers investigating Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin said yesterday that he has failed to respond to their requests for an interview, even though Congress has neared the final stages of its inquiry into his leadership.

Reps. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, yesterday sent a letter to Martin and three other FCC staffers, telling them that they have until Nov. 21 to meet with the House committee staff. If they do not, the committee will finalize its report without their input.

A committee spokesperson said the final report is expected to be released this month.

"Since last week, the committee staff has attempted to arrange an interview to provide you with an opportunity to comment personally on these matters," Dingell and Stupak wrote. "Thus far, however, your office has failed to arrange a meeting in response to our calls."

Identical letters were sent to Martin; his chief of staff, Dan Gonzalez; the FCC's inspector general, Kent Nilsson; and Catherine Bohigian, a former aide to Martin who is vice president of federal affairs for Cablevision Systems.

Martin's office said it has cooperated with Dingell and Stupak's office in the investigation and has provided thousands of documents at their request.

"We continue to cooperate with the committee, and we're considering their offer," said Robert Kenny, a spokesman for the FCC.

Dingell launched the investigation into the regulatory practices and management of the FCC in December after complaints surfaced from within the commission that Martin had suppressed reports that didn't support his agenda to change media ownership rules and purposely delayed meetings for several hours to pressure other commissioners.

Some said Martin tried to rush through controversial reforms on how phone companies pay each other and the overhaul of a federal program that provides funds to phone service providers in rural and underserved areas.

Those proposals were pulled from the agenda of the FCC's meeting earlier this month after the commission's four other members disagreed with Martin, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

"We have witnessed too much sniping among the five commissioners, and we have heard too many tales of a short-circuited decision-making process," Dingell said last December at a hearing on media ownership reforms. "The FCC appears to be broken."

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