Congress Tells Martin He Officially Sucks
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin won’t be leaving his post with his legacy in tact or without a kick to the backside from Congress. After eight years of politicizing the regulatory agency, usurping and abusing power, dodging Congress, kowtowing to the telecommunications industry while waging a vendetta against cable, mismanaging pretty much everything and in the process dismantling both the credibility and authority of the FCC, Congress finally grew a set and issued a 110-page reprimand that means little more than official vindication for those of us who have been crying foul for years.
Lame ducks, unpopular opposition parties, and changes in heads of state can work wonders for a politician’s bravado. To be fair, the Majority Staff of the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s self-described bipartisan investigation of the FCC’s regulatory processes and management practices has been in the works for a couple of years and is still incomplete.
That Republicans took “a thumpin’” in 2006 probably had nothing to do with the timing of said investigation—er, right? The report is the result of the man-hours it took to review “several hundred thousand” paper and electronic documents, 95 boxes of paper documents, and 73 interviews of current and former FCC employees, telecom industry insiders, and dozens of allegations delivered by hand, fax, phone, and mail.
The conclusion is a novel-length report entitled Deception and Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission Under Chairman Kevin J. Martin. It is a detailed indictment of the puritanical, telco-shill FOB* appointed to oversee America’s airwaves, telecommunications policy, the Internet, cable, radio, and wireless spectrum, arguably the most important new infrastructure in the 21st Century.
Because of the “climate of fear” pervading at the FCC under Martin, the Committee conducted much of its investigation in private and promised anonymity to plaintiffs fearing retaliation. The report, say the authors of it, is presented in lieu of a public hearing.
To follow is a summary of the Committee’s report:
1. Martin manipulated, withheld, or suppressed data, reports, and information intended for all commissioners in an attempt to regulate cable television companies. Martin reversed the conclusion of the Second A La Carte Report, compiled by a predecessor, and further “damaged the credibility of the Commission” and “undermined the integrity of the staff” by manipulating the report “with the purpose of affecting congressional decision-making.”
2. Important Commission matters were not handled in an open and transparent manner, and as such some parties and issues were not treated fairly.
3. Martin ignored evidence consumers were being overcharged because of poor oversight of the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund, and that such lack of oversight resulted in carriers fleecing the public for as much as $100 million per year.
4. Martin’s “heavy-handed, opaque, and non-collegial management style has created distrust, suspicion, and turmoil among the five current Commissioners.” Chairman Martin disallowed direct and unfettered access to the expert advice of Commission staff, hindering the Commission’s ability to carry out their duties.
5. As soon as he took office, Martin undertook a major and “highly unusual” reshuffling of FCC staff, where every senior position at the agency changed hands, non-management line staffers were “inexplicably” reassigned, and senior employees with extensive experience and expertise were reassigned to junior-level positions, which the Committee called “a senseless waste of resources.”
Like many other Administration appointees, Martin typifies a government run by cognitive dissonance. When the evidence/data/public doesn’t support your politicized opinion/belief system, just ignore it and go ahead anyway. The current Chairman of the FCC joins the ranks of others—at FEMA, the DOJ, the Fed, the Treasury, Intelligence, DHS, EPA, on and on—charged with applying the Lame Duck’s unique, reverse Midas Touch.
*Friend of Bush: Martin served on President Bush’s legal team during the 2000 campaign.