FCC chairman’s books contain undocumented meetings with left-wing lobbyists

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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In the months leading up to the Federal Communications Commission’s December 21, 2010 “net neutrality” vote, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s appointment book contained two key meetings not listed in Commission’s legal filings, The Daily Caller has learned.

Genachowski’s appointment book, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and provided to TheDC by the National Legal and Policy Center, showed two meetings that were not listed in the Commission’s ex parte filings in the month prior to the “net neutrality vote.”

“Net neutrality” is where Internet traffic management policies of Internet service providers (ISPs) are governed by the FCC.

One was a half an hour meeting on November 9, 2010 called “Tim Wu JG Drop by (Conf Room One). Wu, the chairman of the board of left-wing activist media lobby group Free Press from 2008 until 2011, was one of the chief architects of the “net neutrality” principle. Another was a 15 minute meeting on November 22, 2010 with Gigi Sohn – founder and president of Public Knowledge, also a left-wing activist media lobby group – in the minutes prior to an hour long meeting with “Public Interest Groups.”

When multiple parties are involved in a single issue before the Commission, ex parte filings — which keep all parties informed of private meetings between the Commission and a single party — are required to be filed by the lobby group who petitioned the FCC. Even when the information of the meeting is considered “restricted,” there is at least a notice filed by that party indicating the meeting took place.

Wu told TheDC in an email response that the “drop by was probably intended but didn’t happen,” and said that the chairman is “overambitious about his scheduling.”

Sohn, who is on sabbatical, was unavailable for comment. Public Knowledge spokesman Art Brodsky, in response to a query from TheDC, Brodksy referenced an ex parte filing from November 24. When asked about the difference in filing dates, Brodsky said:

“It was likely the time got changed. That happened a lot back then with all that was going on.  We file ex partes whenever we have conversations or meetings.”

The appointment book shows a half an hour meeting entitled “Gigi” on November 24. Commission Ex Parte filings by Public Knowledge show several meetings took place on November 23 and November 24, but none on November 22.

Parties involved in both sides of the debate filed multiple ex parte notices with the Commission in the months and days leading up to the December 21, 2010 vote.

The vote later triggered a congressional firestorm through much of 2011, in which Republicans lead a charge to curtail the Commission’s expansion of its regulatory reach over the Internet.

Even Sen. Olympia Snow (R-ME), a member who happened to agree with the principle of net neutrality, disagreed with the agency’s power grab, saying that there should have been a congressional debate about the matter.

Senate Democrats ultimately blocked the effort to overturn the FCC’s regulation, disputing a DC appellate court ruling from 2010 that stated the FCC did not possess the legal authority to enforce “net neutrality” rules over ISPs.

The FCC did not respond to TheDC’s repeated requests for comment about the appointment book.

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