Sen. Grassley Says LightSquared E-mails Smack of Improper Contact


Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been seeking information from the Federal Communications Commission and others about LightSquared's waiver to launch a 4g wholesale wireless network, has written to LightSquared principal Philip Falcone to ask him to explain what the senator calls a questionable contact with the Senator's office over the issue.

In the letter, Grassley said that contact, comprising e-mails from both Falcone and a person claiming to represent LightSquared, "that intimated benefits for Grassley if he softened his inquiry of government approval of the project."
Grassley said Falcone's e-mail -- he supplied a redacted copy to the press -- suggested that the network could be a "win" for Grassley, while the second example--an e-mail string with someone who Grassley says also arranged a Fox News Channel booking for Falcone, "hinted" that Iowa could get a call center. According to the e-mail's, after Grassley's office signaled that they thought the suggestion was inappropriate, the representative said he was only pointing out the local connection of the issue for the Senator.

"Mr. Ruelle does not, nor has he ever, worked for Mr. Falcone, Harbinger or LightSquared as an employee or a consultant," said Harbinger spokesman Lew Phelps. "No one at Harbinger or LightSquared has had any discussions or negotiations with Mr. Ruelle with respect to approaching or contacting Senator Grassley's office regarding an alleged quid pro quo, or a call center in Iowa, which in any event would be inconsistent with the LightSquared wholesale business model. If such conversations occurred, Mr. Ruelle was acting entirely on his own and without the knowledge, authority, or endorsement of Mr. Falcone, Harbinger or LightSquared."

Grassley is concerned that the FCC rushed the waiver of the network without sufficiently vetting the impact of the network on GPS. The FCC made the waiver conditional on resolving government GPS issues, and has since said it would not approve the network until those issues are resolved.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration is currently preparing a report to the FCC on recent government testing of LightSquared that concluded it produced too much interference with GPS to be viable in either the short or long-term, results LightSquared has dismissed as bogus and controlled by GPS interests.

Grassley has also threatened to block any attempt seat two new FCC commissioners until the FCC produces documents related to the waiver. The FCC has put some correspondence online related to FOIA requests, but Grassley's office says that is not responsive to the request and that in the meantime the hold threat remains.