House GOP’s Chief Inquisitor Goes Hard After Genachowski

Julius Genachowski, President Obama’s law school buddy, must feel shell-shocked. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission’s new net neutrality rules, Genachowski, who chairs the FCC, has suddenly become a juicy target for House Republicans.

Lately, it’s been Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who acts as the House GOP’s chief investigator. He’s had Genachowski in his sights. On Thursday, Issa sent Genachowski the third in a series of letters in which he has challenged the FCC chair over his close association with the White House and questioned whether the administration had exerted undue influence over the crafting of the net neutrality rules. Calling Genachowski’s February 23 response to his earlier letters “incomplete,” Issa asked him and the FCC to provide more information by April 6.

“In the 14 months since my initial request, the FCC has done little to demonstrate its independence from the White House,” wrote Issa in his March 24 letter. (While the president has the authority to name the FCC chairman, the agency is by statute directed to act independently from the administration.)

Issa put a particular focus on the frequency of Genachowski’s trips to the White House—by Issa’s count, based on the White House’s own logs, Genachowski visited the building 81 times between January 2009 and November 2010.

“To put this in perspective, this equals the number of visits over the same period by the Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Treasures and Secretary of State combined,” Issa wrote.

It’s not just the number of visits, Issa said, but the timing of them, which he contends coincides with major policy actions.

“The large volume and timing of these meetings gives the appearance that they are more than coincidental,” Issa wrote.

Asked for its response to the congressman’s latest missive, Genachowski’s office provided Adweek with this statement: “We worked with both Congress and the executive branch as we carried out Congress’ mandate to create a National Broadband Plan that would improve our communication networks and advance public safety, education, healthcare and energy efficiency.” (The FCC places its net neutrality rules under the rubric of its National Broadband Plan.)

Separately, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has already held two hearings on the FCC’s net neutrality rules and passed a resolution disapproving them. The bill is headed for the House floor in the coming weeks.