Democrats Blast FCC Chairman Martin's Management

Criticisms in the 110-page report range from Martin's heavy-handed, opaque, and non-collegial management style to complaints that Martin suppressed various reports by staff.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on Tuesday received a blistering sendoff by congressional Democrats in the form of a 110-page report that criticizes Martin for what they regard as a multitude of sins at the FCC.

The title of the report by the Committee on Energy and Commerce says it all: "Deception And Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission Under Chairman Kevin J. Martin." The criticisms range from "Chairman Martin's heavy-handed, opaque, and non-collegial management style" to complaints that Martin suppressed various reports by staff.

The report includes 11 separate incidents accusing Martin and his staff of overcharging consumers for a telecommunications relay service (TRS) fund; manipulating policy direction with regard to "a la carte" cable and satellite service; cutting off funding for enhanced E-911 wireless services; and manipulation when it came to fining companies like Verizon and T-Mobile.

Initially, the examination began as a bipartisan effort, but Republicans dropped out when they came to believe the report would have political partisan overtones. Ranking Republican on the committee, Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, initially supported the study, but dropped out.

"He [Barton] and his staff are unconvinced that the discovery of a lack of gentility warrants hoopla, or any hoopla at all," said Larry Neal, deputy Republican staff director of the committee.

Martin's supporters noted that there were no charges in the report that any laws had been broken.

Martin told The Washington Post that the FCC processes have been "the same for decades and have been under chairman Republican and Democratic alike." He added that some of the criticisms occurred under previous FCC leadership.

The report was signed by committee chairman John D. Dingell, D-Mich., and Bart Stupak, D-Mich. No other committee member signed the report.

The report drew immediate responses from public interest groups, which have long complained that the FCC needs overhauling. In a statement, Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, said the report "will be very useful to the Obama Administration as it seeks to reform the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC's processes have been flawed for many years, and this report points up some of the dangers that such dysfunction can create."

Gene Kimmelman, a Consumers Union official, said the report underscored the FCC's need for reform. "The FCC needs to reform and it has needed to for 25 years," he said. "Too much is done behind closed doors secretly and it has been that way through Democratic and Republican leadership."

Martin, a Republican, is likely to be replaced by Barack Obama early next year and the FCC chairman is making one final push in December to pave the way for a free wireless Internet service, but he's already encountering opposition to the move.