House Democrats demand FCC documents

House Democrats demand FCC documents
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for documentation about its operations as they prepare to challenge the agency with their newfound oversight powers.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneAnti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHouse votes to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules House panel approves bill reinstating net neutrality rules House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality bill MORE (D-Pa.), who leads the panel’s subcommittee on technology, sent a letter on Monday to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with extensive requests for documents about the agency’s efforts during the Trump administration.

Frustrated by House Republicans’ unwillingness to challenge the FCC over the past two years, Pallone and Doyle have vowed to hold the agency accountable and confront its leadership over issues like its repeal of the popular 2015 net neutrality rules.

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“Under your leadership, the FCC has failed repeatedly to act in the public interest and placed the interest of corporations over consumers,” the two Democrats wrote in their letter to Pai.

“The FCC should be working to advance the goals of public safety, consumer protection, affordable access, and connectivity across the United States,” they continued. “To that end, it is incumbent upon the Committee’s leadership and its members to oversee the activities of the FCC.”

The letter includes five pages of document requests, including data on the number investigations the FCC has opened and closed in recent years. Pallone and Doyle also asked for the number of complaints it had received on a wide range of consumer issues like net neutrality and robocalls.

Commerce Democrats last year accused Pai of trying to evade congressional oversight by failing to fully answer their inquiries. But the chairman has pushed back on accusations of not being forthcoming and has touted his efforts to make the agency’s regulatory process more transparent.

“This has been the most transparent FCC in history with the Commission for the first time publicly releasing the drafts of meeting items three weeks before the Commission vote,” a spokesperson for the chairman said in an emailed statement. “Under the prior Administration, by contrast, the Commission had to pass an Order before the public was allowed to see what was in it.”

But that is unlikely to put Democrats at ease after two years of being unable to challenge Pai’s deregulatory spree.

“Not only have you have failed on numerous occasions to provide Democratic members of this Committee with responses to their inquiries, you have also repeatedly denied or delayed responding to legitimate information requests from the public about agency operations,” Pallone and Doyle wrote in their letter.

“These actions have denied the public of a full and fair understanding of how the FCC under your leadership has arrived at public policy decisions that impact Americans every day in communities across the country.”

The two lawmakers requested a response by March 4.