Overnight Tech: Senate Dems want FCC chief recused from Sinclair merger | Tech rallies on Capitol Hill for DACA | Facebook beefs up lobbying ranks

Overnight Tech: Senate Dems want FCC chief recused from Sinclair merger | Tech rallies on Capitol Hill for DACA | Facebook beefs up lobbying ranks
© Greg Nash

DEMS SEEK RECUSAL OVER SINCLAIR: A group of Senate Democrats is calling on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to recuse himself from matters related to the Sinclair Broadcast Group and its proposed takeover of Tribune Media.

Democratic Sens. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Poll: Majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Protests and anger: Washington in turmoil as elections near MORE (Wash.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallEPA deputy says he's not interested in Pruitt’s job Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Overnight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release MORE (N.M.) led a group of senators who sent a letter to Pai on Wednesday saying "it is imperative you recuse yourself from certain matters in order to protect the public interest, integrity and independence of the agency's decision-making process until after the FCC's inspector general determines whether the facts warrant your permanent recusal."

In a separate letter sent to the FCC inspector general, the Democratic senators called for an investigation into Pai's impartiality.

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Democrats want Pai to recuse himself from a pair of votes on media regulations at an FCC meeting on Thursday. They believe that the proposals up for vote are also intended to benefit Sinclair.

An FCC spokesperson called the bid absurd.

"This request is absurd on its face and nothing more than a last-ditch attempt by those desperate to block innovation in the broadcast industry and modernization of the FCC's outdated broadcast ownership rules," according to a statement.

Pai's critics note that he has pushed through a number of deregulatory proposals that appear to clear regulatory obstacles from Sinclair's proposed expansion.

If the FCC approves Sinclair's $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune, the combined local television stations will be able to reach more than two-thirds of the country's television audience. Broadcasters are currently capped at 39 percent.

Earlier this year, the FCC reinstated a rule that would help Sinclair avoid running afoul of the ownership limit by discounting certain stations towards the audience cap.

Sinclair declined to comment.

The chairman has denied that his deregulatory agenda was intended to benefit any one company.

Read more here.

 

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TECH PUSHES FOR DACA BILL AT CAPITOL: IBM, Microsoft, LinkedIn and the Mark Zuckerberg-backed immigration advocacy group Fwd.us came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to prioritize legislation that would protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries.

Fwd, which coordinated the push with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wants lawmakers to legally codify the DACA executive action that President Trump scrapped earlier this year.

DACA, which was instituted by President Obama in 2012, allowed individuals who were brought to the country illegally as minors to stay and work in the U.S. The policy protects almost 700,000 individuals from being deported from the U.S. but is set to expire in March of 2018.

IBM's vice president of government affairs, Chris Padilla, spoke at the event before Fwd representatives and "Dreamers" -- another name for DACA beneficiaries -- made their way to the Capitol to meet with lawmakers like Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaHouse votes to disavow carbon tax Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech House GOP questions FBI lawyer for second day MORE (R-Calif.), Rep. Rick CrawfordRichard (Rick) CrawfordWhy DOJ must block the Cigna-Express Scripts merger Elvis impersonator named Elvis Presley running for Congress Overnight Tech: Senate Dems want FCC chief recused from Sinclair merger | Tech rallies on Capitol Hill for DACA | Facebook beefs up lobbying ranks MORE (R-Ark.).

Read more here.

 

DOJ LOOKING TO STATES FOR HELP ON AT&T LAWSUIT: The Justice Department has made overtures to state attorneys general to build support for blocking AT&T's $85.4 billion deal to purchase Time Warner Inc., according to a Wednesday report.

A source "briefed on the matter" told Reuters that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had approached 18 states. It was not clear which states' officials had been reached out to.

A report from financial news network CNBC said the DOJ had failed to convince any state attorneys general to sign on to a potential lawsuit to block the merger. An earlier CNBC report had claimed two states were on board with a lawsuit.

Read more here.

 

FACEBOOK BEEFS UP LOBBYING PRESENCE: Facebook is adding to its federal lobbying team amid scrutiny from Congress about how the company's platform was used by Russians as part of a disinformation campaign to influence U.S. politics.

One of the two new hires, Luke Albee, is a former chief of staff to Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Bipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting MORE (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russia's use of social media platforms in the United States.

The other hire is David Wade, who served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerrySunday shows preview: Questions linger over Trump-Putin summit Kerry on Trump's Russia response: 'I don't buy his walk-back for one second' John Kerry: Trump 'surrendered lock, stock and barrel' to Putin's deceptions MORE.

Read more here.

 

WH UNVEILS RULES ON HACKING TOOLS: The White House on Wednesday lifted the veil on the secretive executive branch process used to determine which computer security flaws it can use for surveillance and which it will report to tech firms to patch.

The Trump administration published a first-ever charter for that system, known as the vulnerability equity process (VEP), on Wednesday morning.

Congress, the private sector and public advocacy groups have recently pushed for a more transparent version of the VEP -- with more consideration of the potential danger of keeping vulnerabilities secret. By keeping these security bugs quiet, they note, criminal or foreign espionage hackers can potentially discover and use them.

Read more here.

 

GOOGLE DOCS GOES MOMENTARILY DOWN: Google Docs momentarily went down on Wednesday afternoon, locking users out of their files.

Other Google products like Gmail and Google Drive did not appear to be affected by the outage.

"Docs is back up for most users, and we expect a full resolution for all users shortly. Sorry for this disruption and thanks again for your patience with us," the company tweeted from its Google Docs account on Wednesday.  

Read more here.

 

ON TAP:

The American Bar Association will hold its Antitrust Fall Forum featuring DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim at 8:00 a.m.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on 5G at 10:00 a.m.

The FCC will hold its monthly open meeting at 10:30 a.m.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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CNBC: Mark Zuckerberg is surprised at the extent of the opioid problem -- but Facebook is full of illegal opioid marketing

The New York Times Op-ed: Hey, Mark Zuckerberg: My democracy isn't your laboratory