Did the FCC chairman change his mind about Title II on his own, or did he capitulate to White House demands to avoid the disgrace of losing his chairmanship? A shocking investigative report by The Wall Street Journal suggests its the latter, and has prompted a pivotal Congressional investigation.
On Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee initiated an investigation of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to determine whether the views expressed by the White House potentially had an improper influence on the development of draft net neutrality rules. A letter from the Committee’s Chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler raised concerns about the independence of the agency based on a shocking investigative report by The Wall Street Journal.
The report indicates that the Imperial President improperly influenced Chairman Wheeler’s decision on net neutrality. If that proves to be true, it would provide a reviewing court with grounds to overturn the FCC’s decision as arbitrary and capricious. See DCP Farms v. Neuter, 957 F.2d 1183 (5th Cir. 1992).
As an independent agency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rests on a precarious constitutional precipice. Congress relies on independent agencies to oversee areas that involve substantial economic and technical expertise. Congress entrusts independent agencies with extraordinary power, because their experts are expected to act independently of the political will of the executive branch. There is nothing more dangerous to a free society than executive control of mass media communications networks.
Historically, Democratic representatives in Congress have been the most vigilant in ensuring that the White House refrains from improperly influencing decisions at the FCC. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) launched a congressional investigation after the press reported that President Reagan had met with former FCC Chairman Mark Fowler to discuss the agency’s tentative conclusion to relax a rule governing television finance and syndication. See Merrill Brown, FCC Chief Called to Oval Office, Washington Post (Oct. 4, 1983). It was well known that Reagan opposed relaxing the rule, and after the meeting, “suddenly there were unofficial reports of some ‘reassessing’ going on over at the FCC.” Editorial Board, Film on TV–and the No. 1 Watcher, The Washington Post (Oct. 21, 1983). Read More
Share the post "Congressional Investigation of FCC Spells Trouble for Net Neutrality"