FCC Responds to Grassley Complaint That Gottheimer, de Sa Not Made Available

Spokeswoman says commission is following protocol in respect to individual requests
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FCC spokeswoman Tammy Sun Thursday responded to complaints from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that the commission had not made a pair of staffers, Josh Gottheimer and Paul de Sa (now a former staffer), available to Grassley's staff to discuss the LightSquared waiver, defending both the staffers and the FCC's handling of Grassley's requests.

Grassley is threatening to hold up the nominations of two new FCC commissioners -- a threat that is essentially a hold in itself -- over the FCC's decision not to make the staffers or LightSquared documents available pursuant to a long-standing request.

"In the LightSquared matter, the Commission is following long-standing practice, consistent with Congress's own guidance with respect to requests from individual members," said Sun in an e-mailed rebuttal. "We have repeatedly made this clear." Grassley is not the chair of a ranking committee, the long-standing practice being to respond only to requests from chairs, otherwise it the would potentially have to respond to 535 requests (all House and Senate members).

"Commission staff have attempted to address these issues through multiple conversations with the Senator's staff, including as recently as last week," said Sun. "The Commission is cooperating with the House committee of jurisdiction in its review of LightSquared issues."

The House Energy & Commerce Committee has asked the FCC for LightSquared documents and has not ruled out holding a hearing or calling witnesses on the LightSquared waiver. That is the waiver the FCC granted the company to offer a national terrestrial wireless broadband network using its satellite spectrum allocation. It was always conditioned on the service not interfering with the waiver and the FCC is moving to rescind the waiver after those issues could not be suitably resolved.

Grassley had suggested last week that getting the documents that way might revolve that issue, leading to hope for a break in the logjam over the nominees, at least until this week's complaint about the availability of de Sa and Gottheimer.

Grassley had pointed out in his complaint, which came in the form of a memo to reporters Wednesday, that Gottheimer is a former executive with Burson-Marsteller, which does PR work for LightSquared. Since the senator simply drew the connection without characterizing it, B&C chose not to publish that portion of the Senator's complaint until Gottheimer or an FCC representative had the chance to respond.

"Josh Gottheimer joined the Commission in July 2010 - months after the Commission approved LightSquared's plan to build out a nationwide 4G network, which has been conditioned on resolution of harmful interference issues, ," Sun said in the statement. "The Commission's career ethics staff reviewed his potential recusal requirements, as it does those of other FCC officials. The ethics team determined that LightSquared and its predecessors were not clients of Mr. Gottheimer while he was employed by Burson-Marsteller, and Mr. Gottheimer did not work on those matters. Also, the public relations firm is not a participant in any relevant FCC proceeding. Therefore, Mr. Gottheimer's participation in LightSquared matters at the Commission raised no ethical concern."

She also stood up for de Sa, saying he had "performed with distinction" as former director of the FCC's Office of Strategic Planning," but also pointed out he was "one of many commission staff, across at least five bureaus and offices, who participated in the Commission's deliberations on LightSquared's applications."

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