Judicial Watch has taken aim at the Federal Communications Commission and senior Democratic commissioner Michael Copps over email exchanges with Free Press during the run-up to the agency'sparty line vote to codify and expand network neutrality rules.
The self-described conservative group said in a June 2 story on its Web site that its FOIA request for FCC communications about network neutrality revealed that the FCC had colluded with Free Press to push for the rules.
Responding to that report, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Communications and Oversight Subcommittees and a vocal critic of the FCC's net neutrality rule vote, also saw it as collusion, saying: "I am deeply disturbed by the revelations of collusion between the FCC and Free Press on the Net Neutrality issue. The FCC has moved against the will of the people, the wisdom of Congress, and the order of the courts, to nationalize our most productive marketplace. Now we know they were assisted by a 'public-interest' group who has never had to disclose who their donors are... I believe this is an issue that requires closer scrutiny from the House."
Among the e-mails Judicial Watch offered up as evidence were ones about a pro-network neutrality op ed Copps penned and Free Press sought, and one between an FCC special counsel and Free Press over a speakers list for Internet workshops.
An FCC spokesperson had no comment, but an official speaking on background said of the list:: "FCC staff conducted a search for a broad range of panelists who were experts in the field for the open internet workshops. As the lists of the panelists and record show, representation was unprecedentedly diverse. "
Copps' office had no comment, but Free Press suggested it was much ado about nothing.
"As you can see from even a cursory glance at these emails, there is nothing unusual or controversial in what Judicial Watch uncovered.' They found us - shockingly - filing ex partes about meetings we had, recommending our allies to testify at public hearings, urging the public to attend those healings, and sending a daily headline service to anyone who signs up," said Free Press president Craig Aaron.
"This is what activists do: they contact policymakers and ask them to act in the best interests of the activists' constituents. In the case of Free Press, our constituents are the American people who want better media for a better democracy. The emails don't reflect anything more than that. "We would hope Judicial Watch were as respectful of our First Amendment right to petition the government as we are of their right to spin wildly alarmist tales about everyday email conversations."