House Republicans demand LightSquared documents from FCC, other Obama agencies

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Within minutes of LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja’s unexpected resignation, House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to several of President Barack Obama’s agencies requesting documents related to the emerging scandal.

Ahuja’s resignation — and the launch of what appears to the beginnings of a congressional investigation — comes after Obama’s Federal Communications Commission suspended conditional approval of a waiver LightSquared needed to complete its high-speed broadband network. Until two weeks ago, the company’s final approval appeared imminent.

The Daily Caller first reported one week ago on emails and documents that indicate political ties and numerous meetings between LightSquared executives and Obama administration officials as the company was undergoing regulatory review. It also appears the FCC subsequently destroyed LightSquared’s competition through regulatory decisions.

According to a press release accompanying the letters, Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Cliff Stearns and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden believe a “comprehensive review” of the processes by which the FCC handled LightSquared’s regulatory decisions is in order.

Among the documents that Walden, Upton and Stearns are demanding are written and electronic communications between LightSquared and the FCC, and between different GPS companies and the FCC. They’re also demanding that the FCC provide documents related to communication its staff had with the White House and other Obama administration agencies with regard to the matters it was handling about LightSquared, and documents about anything related to the FCC’s testing of LightSquared technology and how it may interfere with GPS. (RELATED: FCC plans to nix wireless network that may jam GPS)

The top House Energy and Commerce Republicans are seeking similar information and documents from the Department of Transportation, the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Upton, Walden and Stearns may run into some stonewalling from Obama administration officials, though.

Over the course of last spring and summer, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, attempted to get similar documents from the FCC. The FCC refused to provide them to Grassley. The reason the agency apparently gave for its refusal, as Grassley noted in a follow-up letter TheDC later obtained, was because he is not the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“When my staff followed up with your legislative affairs office to seek an explanation for your failure to be responsive, my staff was told that the FCC chose to intentionally ignore the document requests in my letter,” Grassley wrote to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on July 5, 2011. “FCC staff asserted that, as a general matter, the FCC does not respond to congressional document requests unless they are made by the chairmen of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce or the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.”

Genachowski, a Harvard Law School classmate of President Barack Obama, defended the FCC’s unwillingness to provide documents to member of Congress in at least two different follow-up letters.

That prompted Grassley, who’s known in Washington for his aggressive oversight, to express further frustration with Genachowski.

“I was extremely disappointed to read that the FCC refuses requests for information from any of the 533 senators and members of Congress who do not chair either the House or Senate Commerce Committee,” Grassley wrote to the FCC chairman on Sept. 8, 2011. “Unilaterally deciding that 99.6 percent of the elected representatives in the legislative branch have no legitimate interest in requesting and receiving information from the FCC is a misguided and unsupportable claim.”

Genachowski still hasn’t provided the documents Grassley was requesting, and only time will tell if the FCC will provide the documents now that the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman is asking for them.

FCC spokeswoman Tammy Sun told TheDC that “we have received the committee’s requests and will cooperate.”

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