Nearly a year before the Federal Communications Commission voted on new Internet neutrality regulations, Commissioner Michael O'Rielly sought input from industry lobbyists on an article he planned to publish, hoping to sway opinion on the FCC's impending action.
The National Journal reports
that O'Rielly asked for editing advice on his article from Robert McDowell, a former FCC commissioner and fellow Republican, and an attorney at the law and lobbying firm Wiley Rein.
The Washington Post notes
that Wiley Rein recently acquired McBee Strategic, a Washington lobbying firm that specializes in the digital universe.
On April 23, 2014, the Journal notes, O'Rielly wrote to McDowell, "Would be interested in your thoughts on this draft. Keep it close as a work in progress. Your expertise would be most appreciated as soon as possible given the timing."
O'Rielly also reached out for editing help to Harold Furchtgott-Roth, another former Republican FCC commissioner now with the Hudson Institute, and Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, which the Journal calls a "libertarian" group.
Furchtgott-Roth wrote on Market Watch
, "In a regulated Internet, consumers lose because businesses get ahead by pleasing Washington, not competing for customers."
Szoka wrote that FCC Chairman
Tom Wheeler "admitted that what the FCC is doing is effectively rewriting the law to suit its political agenda."
O'Rielly's requests came to light during a hearing before the House Oversight Committee, held to determine if the White House improperly influenced the FCC in its passage of net neutrality regulations.
O'Rielly's article, which appeared on The Hill on May 6 last year
, opposed the net neutrality regulations, stating, "In most instances, we should seek to ratchet down regulations, not impose new burdens on everyone."
The article further states, "I worry that the FCC is about to go down a slippery slope that will create burdensome regulations and uncertainty for broadband providers and edge providers alike. This will chill the needed investment and flexibility that is fueling innovation and job growth."
Democrats jumped on the news that O'Rielly had sought input from lobbyists, with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., saying, "If Republicans want to accuse the president of undue influence in this process ... they can't just conveniently ignore similar actions on the part of the Republican side," the National Journal reported.
In a statement, O'Rielly argued that he was under no obligation to disclose the communications "because they were commenting on my personal views and advocacy, not lobbying or expressing views to the Commission in any capacity."
He added, "Moreover, these communications did not have any effect on my ultimate decisions or the outcome of the FCC proceeding," O'Rielly said, the National Journal noted.
On Feb. 26, the FCC passed new net neutrality regulations with a vote split along party lines, with three Democrats, including Wheeler, overcoming two Republicans: O'Rielly and Commissioner Ajit Pai, Tech Crunch reported
"No one, whether government or corporate, should control free and open access to the Internet," Wheeler said. "The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules."
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