Issa, Republicans investigate LightSquared donations

Tina Nguyen Contributor
Font Size:

Citing concerns over alleged White House influence in dispersing loans, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa announced that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would begin an investigation into the wireless startup LightSquared.

On C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Tuesday morning, Issa, who chairs the Oversight Committee, named LightSquared along with the embattled solar energy company Solyndra as examples of “crony capitalism.”

“I want to see when the president and his cronies are picking winners and losers,” he explained, “that it wasn’t because there were large contributions given to them.”

The investigation comes after weeks of allegations that LightSquared used political contributions to the Democratic Party to influence the Obama administration, which in turn pressured federal agencies to approve a proposal to build a terrestrial wireless network.

A series of stories published by The Daily Beast reported instances where the administration had pressured agencies and agency heads — including a four-star general — into changing their testimonies to closed congressional hearings to hasten approval for the network.

LightSquared says it is willing to work with the committee, but argues that it should not be considered in the same category as Solyndra. (RELATED: Solyndra execs to plead Fifth in hearing)

“Unlike Solyndra, LightSquared has not asked for a dime of government money for this plan, which is based on an FCC authorization received in 2005,” said Jeffrey Carlisle, the company’s executive vice president.

“LightSquared is 100 percent privately funded and has not asked, nor will ask, for public money for our network,” Carlisle said. (RELATED: Solyndra to The Daily Caller in February: ‘The federal government has not spent a dime on Solyndra’)

Following Issa’s announcement, eight members of the House Science and Technology Committee sent a separate letter to the White House requesting LightSquared-related documents, and voiced their concern over the timing of the donations.

“While some may call it a coincidence,” wrote committee Chairman Ralph Hall, a Texas Republican, “we remain skeptical that shortly after two separate sets of meetings and meeting requests one year apart, LightSquared employees made five-figure donations to the Democratic Party.”

Hall’s letter also raised concerns over issues of public trust related to the administration’s handling of loans to high-tech companies.

“These actions contradict the words of President Obama,” Hall wrote, “who, in a 2009 memo on scientific integrity to the heads of executive departments and agencies, said: ‘The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions.  Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions.’”

During the past year, government agencies and industry representatives protested that LightSquared’s proposed network would drown out signals from the Global Satellite Positioning network. If LightSquared’s proposal goes through, they argue, it would harm multiple industries that use GPS for navigation, including agriculture, fishing, air travel and military defense.

Follow Tina on Twitter