Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Sean Rushton/Mark Carpenter

February 12, 2003

(202) 467-5300



(Washington, D.C.) – Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today chided House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) for improperly meddling in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rule-making process.

“We agree with Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) that it was inappropriate for Chairman Tauzin to call an FCC commissioner on the carpet during consideration of a critical rule that affects the future of the entire telecommunications industry,” CAGW President Tom Schatz said.

Yesterday, Sen. McCain said, “I don’t think it’s right.  They are in the process of formulating a rule.  I would not have a Commissioner over to my office at that particular period in time.  The FCC is an independent agency.”

The rule in question would remove the ability of the states to regulate fees for access to the local phone lines of the four Bell regional operating companies by non-Bell companies, as well as eliminate the requirement that the Bells make their lines available to competitors prior to allowing the Bells to offer long distance service.  Those opposed to the new rule believe this would cause a re-monopolization of the telecommunications industry and undo the deregulation set in motion by the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

When it appeared that three of the five commissioners were going to vote against the rule, Tauzin sought to exert his considerable political clout in an effort to get the FCC to “reevaluate” its position.  He held a closed, private meeting in his office, rather than holding a public hearing with his colleagues to allow questioning of all commissioners, including FCC Chairman Michael Powell.  Tauzin then availed himself to the media to send very clear messages to all of the commissioners that they need to carefully consider his position on the issue.  In a remarkable ironic twist, Tauzin, a former Democrat, questioned the conservative credentials of one of the Republican commissioners who disagreed with him.

Following this meeting, the FCC delayed its decision by 10 days to allow additional lobbying by those in favor of the Chairman’s position – the same position espoused by the four giant Bell monopolies and opposed by just about everyone else, including the AARP, American Conservative Union, CAGW, IBEW, NFIB, hundreds of consumer and business advocacy groups.  None of these entities were represented at the closed door meeting with Chairman Tauzin.

While Chairman Tauzin may not be troubled by pressuring independent government agencies to bend to his will, the American taxpayers should be disturbed.  How many times must the taxpayers foot the bill when an agency is forced to do the “political thing” instead of the “right thing?”  The Chairman should listen to Senator McCain – and the millions of Americans represented by the groups opposed to his views – and allow the FCC to operate independent of his personal agenda.

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government.

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