The ranking members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee had written the FCC's Republican members to register their serious concerns about those members appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last month.
“Your willingness to attend and help promote a political rally raises serious concerns about your roles as leaders of an independent federal agency, and the potential of taxpayer dollars being spent towards political ends,” E&C ranking member
Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) wrote in a letter to each.
They said they are looking for information and legal analysis on what the Dems said were "a number of ethically questionable situations."
They pointed to Pai's surprise award of the NRA's "Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award" (a rifle) for sticking to his, well, guns on rolling back network neutrality regs in the face of personal attacks and threats from net neutrality activists. Pai did not accept the rifle, which Pallone and Doyle commended, but they suggested he should not have put himself in the position of getting the surprise award.
They also pointed to a complaint that O'Rielly violated the Hatch Act prohibition on federal employees engaging in partisan activity by calling for the re-election of President Trump.
O'Rielly's office at the time told the Washington Post: “Commissioner O’Rielly was asked a question on how to prevent the agency from ping ponging back and forth. He tried to respond in a factual way without engaging in advocacy.”
Spokesperson for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had not comment and a Carr spokesperson was not available at press time. Commissioner O'Rielly told Multichannel News that he could not comment. "I would love to, but there is an ongoing process and I'm just not going to make any comments at this time and let the process play out," he said.
An FCC source pointed out on background that several Trump Administration officials, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and SBA Administrator Linda McMahon, also attended CPAC, though none of those are commissioners of an independent agency.