Media watchdog groups are calling on the Federal Communications
Commission to renew its investigation of disgraced Enron Corp.'s illegal
use of wireless, airplane and maritime frequencies in its gas-pipeline
They also attacked a $7,500 voluntary payment the company paid in return for
squelching the review.
"This decision was the error to beat all errors," wrote the United Church of
Christ and Media Access Project in their petition last week.
The Jan. 16 decision to terminate the FCC's investigation into Enron's
alleged violations was "so gross an abuse of prosecutorial discretion as to
engender public disrespect for the rule of law," the groups added.
They also complained that the FCC's enforcement priorities are woefully
misguided if multiple license violations by a major corporation warrants slight
scrutiny at the same time officials "squander" resources trying to stop
unlicensed pirate-radio stations and fine a station for airing performance
artist Sarah Jones.
"Unlike a `pirate' or poet, a serial violator of the ownership rules aims at
the heart of the commission's ability to know with confidence who owns and
controls FCC-licensed facilities," wrote attorney David Honig, the petition's
Furthermore, by acquiescing to a payment that amounts to $50.33 per
violation, the FCC is encouraging contempt for government licensing rules among
other corporations, he said.
The groups acknowledged that the licenses in question, primarily microwave
permits, do not carry the same public-interest weight as broadcast licenses. But
the "near-record" 149 violations are so "overwhelmingly numerous" and "brazen"
that the FCC should considered designating Enron's case before an agency
administrative law judge.
The groups also suggested that the politically connected Enron managed to
cash in on its high-powered ties to call off FCC investigators. To combat any
suggestion of ethics violations the FCC should disclose the findings of its
earlier investigation of Enron's licensing practices and explain why the review
was suddenly shut down.
Enron claims that its unlicensed use of frequencies was inadvertent and
errors were corrected when found.