WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission leaks confidential information to some companies and trade groups with business before the agency while leaving consumer advocates and the public in the dark, congressional investigators have found.
The Government Accountability Office said in a new report that the agency tips off some people about what items are about to be voted on, giving them an unfair lobbying advantage.
“Situations where some, but not all, stakeholders know what FCC is considering for an upcoming vote undermine the fairness and transparency of the process and constitute a violation of FCC’s rules,” the GAO said.
The independent FCC, created by Congress, oversees airwaves and regulates telecommunications services. Information on upcoming actions can move stock prices or even affect entire markets.
Lobbying of FCC members is prohibited during the weeklong “Sunshine Period” between the release of the commission meeting agenda and the actual meeting. But investigators found that some insiders are given a heads up before the sunshine notice goes out. This allows them to “time their lobbying efforts to maximize their impact.”
“It’s like a 3-point shot at the buzzer,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.
David Fiske, director of FCC media relations, said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin “has always been very open and transparent” about what issues are coming to a vote.