Sen. Nelson Advises FCC IG on Lifeline Investigation

Says it needs to look at 'all' sources of possible leaks

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has some advice for how the FCC Inspector General should conduct an investigation into FCC leaks.

He asked the FCC's Inspector General to make sure that his investigation into whether or not nonpublic information about the FCC's Lifeline reform proposal was leaked looks at "all" possible sources of the information, and wants to make sure it is objective and independent, said a committee source.

That came in a letter to FCC IG David Hunt.

Nelson said he trusted that in addition to subject suggested by Sen. Thune (see below), the IG would look at commissioner and employee statements via social media or other public forums, as well as to reporters. He also said he wanted a committee briefing on the findings.

Nelson said he was troubled by the assumption by some that a 3-2 vote at the FCC is cause for investigation.

The Lifeline vote was 3-2, and particularly contentious, with the Republicans complaining about the collapse of the deal and laying blamed at the feet of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler who was having none of it. 

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) called for the investigation after a compromise struck between the Republicans and Democrat Mignon Clyburn fell apart not long after it was made public on the morning of the FCC meeting at which it was to have been voted.

Thune said the proper functioning of the FCC depends on the confidentiality of deliberations and asked Wheeler to explain the disclosures of nonpublic information in those news reports, whether he or any other employee authorized disclosure and, if so, any legal justification for doing so.

Thune said the leaks of info appeared "designed to engage outside interest groups to disrupt the deal struck between the Republican Commissioners and Commissioner Clyburn."

Wheeler has said there was no such strategy to kneecap the compromise, and the suggestion that there was "balderdash."