Accountability

Published — December 10, 2008 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

FCC Chairman Martin under fire

House investigates management practices at FCC and finds accusations that Martin has not acted fairly

Introduction

Kevin J. Martin has drawn bipartisan criticism for his leadership of the five-member Federal Communications Commission, the independent agency charged with “regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.” On January 8, 2008, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce informed Martin that it was initiating an investigation into the FCC’s “management practices that may adversely affect the agency’s operation,” according to a letter signed by committee chairman John Dingell, Democrat of Michigan; ranking member Joe Barton, Republican of Texas; Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations chairman Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan; and Subcommittee ranking member John Shimkus, Republican of Illinois. The investigation turned up multiple complaints from FCC staff members relating to Martin’s suppression of studies that did not support his agenda of looser media ownership rules and changes to cable television pricing structures, according to memos obtained by The Washington Post. “The bottom line,” wrote the committee’s investigators, “is that the [FCC] process appears broken and most of the blame appears to rest with Chairman Martin.” Martin told Dingell in a letter, “I agree that the Commission should conduct its affairs fairly, openly, and transparently to serve the public interest,” and noted that 95 percent of Commission items have been adopted by a bipartisan majority of Commissioners.

Follow-up:
On December 9, 2008, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released its report, “Deception and Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission Under Chairman Kevin J. Martin.” The document, according to Stupak, “details some of the most egregious abuses of power, suppression of information, and manipulation of data under Chairman Martin’s leadership.” The FCC issued a statement noting that the committee “did not find or conclude that there were any violations of rules, laws, or procedures.” On January 14, 2009, Martin announced he would step down from his position, effective January 20.

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