Judicial Watch has taken aim at
the FCC and senior Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps over email exchanges with
Free Press during the run-up to the FCC's party line vote to codify and expand
network neutrality rules.
The self-described conservative
group said in a June 2 story on its Web site that its FOIA request for FCC
communications about network neutrality revealed that the FCC had colluded with
Free Press to push for the rules.
Responding to that report, Rep.
Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Communications and Oversight
Subcommittees and a vocal critic of the FCC's net neutrality rule vote, also
saw it as collusion, saying: "I am deeply disturbed by the revelations of
collusion between the FCC and Free Press on the Net Neutrality issue. The FCC
has moved against the will of the people, the wisdom of Congress, and the order
of the courts, to nationalize our most productive marketplace. Now we
know they were assisted by a 'public interest' group who has never had to
disclose who their donors are... I believe this is an issue that requires
closer scrutiny from the House."
Among the e-mails Judicial Watch
offered up as evidence were ones about a pro-network neutrality op ed Copps
penned and Free Press sought,
and one between an FCC special counsel and Free Press over a speakers list for
An FCC spokesperson had no comment, but an official speaking on background said of the list:: "FCC staff conducted a search for a broad range of panelists who were experts in the field for the open internet workshops. As the lists of the panelists and record show, representation was unprecedentedly diverse. "
Copps' office had no comment, but
Free Press suggested it was much ado about nothing.
"As you can see from even a
cursory glance at these emails, there is nothing unusual or controversial in
what Judicial Watch 'uncovered.' They found us - shockingly - filing ex partes
about meetings we had, recommending our allies to testify at public hearings,
urging the public to attend those healings, and sending a daily headline
service to anyone who signs up," said Free Press President Craig Aaron.
"This is what activists do: they
contact policymakers and ask them to act in the best interests of the
activists' constituents. In the case of Free Press, our constituents are
the American people who want better media for a better democracy. The
emails don't reflect anything more than that. "We would hope Judicial Watch
were as respectful of our First Amendment right to petition the government as we
are of their right to spin wildly alarmist tales about everyday email