The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and other groups
would be banned from funding convention-related travel of Federal Communications
Commission officials, according to legislation introduced Friday by Senate
Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.).
In a prepared statement, McCain said he was reacting to a recent report by
the Center for Public Integrity that showed that various organizations with
business before the agency had paid $2.8 million to fund more than 2,500 trips
by FCC members and staff since May 1995.
"Although this is perfectly legal and it is often appropriate for FCC
officials and staff to attend such conventions, conferences, or meetings, it
should be without the appearance of impropriety," McCain said.
McCain's bill -- a reauthorization of FCC activities for the first time since
1991 -- would provide funds so the FCC could pay its own travel costs.
Although the bill would end direct payment of FCC travel by industry, it
appeared that it would not end it indirectly. Under current law, about 85
percent of the FCC's annual budget comes from user fees paid by FCC-regulated
According to the CPI study, the National Association of Broadcasters and the
NCTA topped the list of trade groups that funded business travel by FCC
personnel, with the NAB funding 206 trips costing about $191,000 and the NCTA
funding 125 trips costing about $173,000.
Both trade groups stage annual conventions that attract thousands of
attendees and numerous FCC officials.
In other provisions, McCain's bill would ban high-level FCC employees from
lobbying the agency for one year after leaving.
On a controversial subject, McCain's bill would require the FCC to review its
broadcast-ownership rules every five years instead of every two, and it would
change the presumption in current law that favors deregulation of
broadcast-ownership rules at the end of the review.
"This bill modifies the review standard to specifically allow the FCC to
repeal, strengthen, limit, or retain media-ownership rules if it determines such
changes are in the public interest," McCain said.