LightSquared CEO made curious max donation to DNC while seeking White House audience

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Broadband company LightSquared‘s CEO made a maximum-allowable political donation to the Democratic Party on the same day his lawyers were trying to arrange a meeting between him and top White House technology officials, records and emails obtained by The Daily Caller show. Those same records also show a questionable inconsistency, listing the CEO’s employer as a company he hadn’t worked for in a decade.

The requests and donation came soon after President Barack Obama’s Federal Communications Commission successfully propped up LightSquared, and subsequently demolished its competitor GlobalStar with regulatory muscle.

Nine days after the FCC denied a waiver-extension request, effectively disabling GlobalStar from being able to continue operating in the field, LightSquared’s attorney Henry Goldberg emailed Obama’s White House science and technology chief of staff Jim Kohlenberger to request a meeting. Goldberg wanted Kohlenberger, White House chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra and Tom Kalil, the White House’s deputy director for policy in the office of science and technology policy, to meet with LightSquared’s new CEO, Sanjiv Ahuja.

In the September 23, 2010 email, Goldberg points out that Ahuja would be attending a fundraiser for Obama in the following week.

“In any event, Sanjiv will be at fund-raiser dinner with the President on September 30 and would like to visit with you, perhaps Tom Kalil, and Aneesh Chopra, if it is at all possible,” Goldberg wrote to Kohlenberger, after explaining the status of LightSquared’s network.

Later that day, one of Goldberg’s law firm partners, Dave Kumar, emailed Chopra himself to reiterate the request for a meeting between him, Kalil, Kohlenberger and Ahuja. Kumar also points out how Ahuja was “going to be in DC next week for a fundraising dinner with the president.”

Also on Sept. 23, 2010, Ahuja made a $30,400 donation to the Democratic National Committee. Though he had been LightSquared’s CEO since July of 2010, the Daily Caller has learned that Ahuja’s occupation and employer were curiously listed on the official Federal Election Commission records as “President & CEO” of “Telecordia [sic].” According to a BusinessWeek profile, Ahuja was the president of “Telcordia Technologies” only from 1996 to 2000. (RELATED: Full coverage of LightSquared)

It’s unclear how Ahuja’s decade-old employer and company made it onto those records, but donors aren’t legally required to provide that information. Collecting such information and presenting it to the FEC is the responsibility of the candidate or committee that’s receiving a donation. The Democratic National Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Interestingly, that’s the only known donation Ahuja has ever made to Democrats. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Ahuja donated $350 and $250 to the National Republican Congressional Committee in 1998 and 2000, respectively. In 2002, those records show Ahuja also donated $1,000 to now former New Jersey Congressman Mike Ferguson and $1,000 to support former South Dakota Sen. Larry Pressler’s bid for a U.S. House seat. Both Ferguson and Pressler were Republicans. None of those donation records list Telcordia as Ahuja’s employer.

On Oct. 28, 2010, a mere month after he made the maximum possible donation to the Democratic Party, Ahuja made a $30,400 donation to the NRCC. On that donation record, though, Ahuja’s correct title and occupation, the CEO of LightSquared, are listed.

LightSquared spokesman Terry Neal told The Daily Caller that the inconsistencies about Ahuja’s employment on FEC donation records didn’t come from him. “Mr. Ahuja did not provide the name of his employer on the campaign contribution, which is not required by law,” Neal said.

As for the gap in political contributions before he suddenly made the maximum allowed donation to Democrats after records show he never had before, Neal said it’s because his boss, Ahuja, just returned from living overseas. “He had been living outside of the country for eight years, and made no contributions during that time,” Ahuja said. “He was happy to give equal contributions to both parties when he returned.”

Amid the series of political donations, it’s unclear if Ahuja ever secured the meeting his lawyers were pursuing with Obama administration officials. Visitors records released by the White House show no visits by Ahuja during the timeframe shortly before and after that Sept. 30, 2010, Obama fundraiser.

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