Ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) says that FCC staffers have ignored document requests about the commission's communications with LightSquared and its backers and with the White House.
Grassley said in a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski Tuesday that following an "unresponsive" answer to his May 10 request for information, his staff followed up and was told that the commission "chose to intentionally ignore the document requests," and said that if a FOIA request was made for the same information, the process could be drawn out over a couple of years and the eventual documents would be "heavily redacted."
"As none of this information was contained in the letter you sent to me, I am writing to see if it is in fact accurate and if so, explore the FCC's apparent decision to take an extreme position against transparency, which would stifle congressional oversight and public scrutiny in direct contradiction to President Obama's stated policies and instructions on open government," said Grassley.
"While we have deep respect for Senator Grassley, we respectfully disagree with the characterization of the exchange between staff in our offices," said a spokesperson for Genachowski. "As always, we remain responsive and look forward to working together on this and other issues."
Grassley included some new questions in the letter that he wanted answered by July 20. They included whether the FCC would now be responsive to his initial request; whether, as he says his staff was told, the FCC did not respond to document requests unless they were made by the chairmen of the House or Senate Commerce Committees; if FCC staffers were correct that a FOIA request would take two years and what the average length of other FOIA requests were; and whether the FCC is concerned about the connection between Philip Falcone, who is under investigation by the SEC for a loan from his hedge fund Harbinger Capital and other dealings and Harbinger's reported control of 80% of LightSquared shares; and whether the FCC has safeguards about who gets access to valuable spectrum.
LightSquared received an FCC waiver to use its satellite spectrum for terrestrial delivery of a 4G wireless broadband network, although interference issues have caused LightSquared to modify its proposal per the FCC's condition that its service not interfere with GPBS operations on an adjacent band.
The National Legal and Policy Center called for a probe of the Harbinger/LightSquared connection and the government's role in it earlier this year.