Shimkus: FCC Probe No Threat To Martin

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Washington—The top House Republican on the subcommittee investigating the Federal Communications Commission said it is unlikely the probe will uncover wrongdoing by Republican chairman Kevin Martin.

“I don't think it will amount to a lot. I think it will allow us to become better educated. It will help us understand what the FCC does and doesn't do,” Rep. John Shimkus (R-Il.) said in a C-SPAN interview that airs Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET but Multichannel News previewed on Thursday.

Shimkus (pictured) is the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He assumed that post a month after Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) notified Martin of the investigation.

Shimkus, interviewed on the C-SPAN series "The Communicators," said he supported Dingell’s investigation, noting it had bipartisan support from the beginning.

“I don't think it's harmful.  It's doing the job we're supposed to do as the legislative branch versus the executive branch,” he said. "It doesn't mean you find a crook."

Shimkus was unsure whether the subcommittee would conduct a hearing with FCC witnesses.

“We were expecting to have an oversight hearing at some time, but one hasn't been called. I don't think there's one on the schedule,” he said. "That's based upon the calendar. Who knows if one will come up?”

In April, Dingell’s staff sent him a memo recommending a June hearing.

“The bottom line is that the (FCC) process appears broken and most of the blame appears to rest with chairman Martin,” the staff memo said.

Dingell opened the investigation last December after Martin had been accused of withholding important data from his FCC colleagues in an effort to inflict punitive regulations on cable industry. Martin also had a serious time-management problem: the FCC monthly public meetings in 2007 failed to start on time by at least 40 hours cumulatively.

“Given several events and proceedings over the past year, I am rapidly losing confidence that the [FCC] has been conducting its affairs in an appropriate manner,” Dingell said in his three-page letter to Martin.

Dingell said he was concerned that Martin had been “short-circuiting procedural norms, suggesting a larger breakdown at the agency.”

Shimkus said the FCC has been cooperative with the subcommittee.

“I think they have. There was, it seemed, like a lot of cantankerous language going back and forth when I first became ranking member,” he said.

Shimkus suggested that when Republicans controlled the House during Martin's first two years in office, the Energy and Commerce Committee defaulted on its obligation to keep a close eye on independent regulatory agencies run by Bush appointees.

“Part of our problem is that, incredibly, we didn't do a good enough job of really scrutinizing federal agencies,” he said. "As conservative Republicans, we ought to—it shouldn't matter who's in the White House."

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