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House committee requests records in FCC investigation

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  1. Freedom of Information
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has continued its probe into the Federal Communications Commission with a letter to FCC…

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has continued its probe into the Federal Communications Commission with a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin asking the agency to release a number of documents.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and other members of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations announced a formal investigation of the regulatory procedures at the FCC on Jan. 8. On Wednesday, they followed up with a letter requesting further information about the agency’s management practices.

The members thanked Martin for his cooperation thus far in the investigation, which stems from allegations from “credible” sources that “relate 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.”

The probe was instigated as a result of criticism of Martin about the FCC’s handling of the media-ownership-rule review (his program for easing rules against the ownership of both newspapers and cable stations in the same city.) He has been accused of rushing the proposal and pushing his own agenda – he did not make the text available to the public and held back details of the proposal from other commissioners.

The letter went on to request all e-mails, memorandum, electronic and handwritten notes, records of telephone conversations, talking points and meeting schedules since January 2005.

The committee and subcommittee also want all personnel records since Martin was hired and the schedules and travel records of the commissioners.  The agency has two weeks to release the documents.

The letter concluded with one final appeal for the letter to be circulated among employees and contractors at the FCC. An online feedback form and e-mail address were included in the letter to encourage workers to come forward under the protection of anonymity should they have any information that might be helpful to the investigation. 

“We’re very pleased to see the level of detail in the letter," said Derek Turner, research director for the public interest group, Free Press. "We can see that the Committee has a good understanding of the allegations and is very serious about the investigation from the dozens of specific and extremely detailed requests.”