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 CantwellFive tech stories to watch in 2020 Hillicon Valley: House panel unveils draft of privacy bill | Senate committee approves bill to sanction Russia | Dems ask HUD to review use of facial recognition | Uber settles sexual harassment charges for .4M Key House committee offers online privacy bill draft MORE (Wash.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Democrats vow to force third vote on Trump's border wall emergency declaration Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall 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.


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a last-ditch attempt by those desperate to block innovation in the broadcast industry and modernization of the FCC's outdated broadcast ownership rules," according to a statement.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 IssaDuncan Hunter to plead guilty to campaign finance violations Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries MORE (R-Calif.), Rep. Rick CrawfordRichard (Rick) CrawfordThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry House Republicans add Jordan to Intel panel for impeachment probe Republican Congressman: DNI Nominee committed to declassification transparency 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 WarnerHillicon Valley: Apple, Barr clash over Pensacola shooter's phone | Senate bill would boost Huawei alternatives | DHS orders agencies to fix Microsoft vulnerability | Chrome to phase out tracking cookies Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Sen. Warner calls on State Department to take measures to protect against cyberattacks 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 KerryThe Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Bring on the brokered convention 18 progressive groups sign unity pledge amid Sanders-Warren feud 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.



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.



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