“Public Interest” Groups Revealed for Their True Selves – Hardcore, Entrenched Lobbyists

by Mike Wendy on August 12, 2010

 The “public interest” lobby makes itself out to be the tireless, country-poor underdog for the downtrodden consumer.  But don’t be fooled.  In the technology space, three such groups – Public Knowledge, Media Access Project and Free Press – have few rivals.  Their humble appearance belies their take-no-prisoners, oftentimes shameless, below-the-belt approach to public policy formation and gamesmanship.  How do they do it?  They use all the tools, and then some, to make them every bit as sophisticated as the largest companies they’re trying to undermine. 

Of late, the Free Press has been the loudest of the three, shedding more than a crocodile tear-or-two over the lobbying process of “evil” corporations that want their voice heard on Net Neutrality regulation.  You might have seen a little of their handiwork, too, in their pointed criticism of the FCC and its “closed door” process while the agency attempted to work with stakeholders on its pending “Third Way” rule.  

Bemoaned the group in this press release  –  

“Despite public outrage and repeated promises of transparency, the FCC continues to meet behind closed doors with the largest companies to negotiate a secret deal that would short-circuit public participation in policymaking that would shape the Internet for a generation. The great irony here is that the FCC’s ‘transparency’ policy is part of these negotiations…”

But a funny thing happened on the way to the lobby.  Turns out Free Press, Public Knowledge and Media Access Project were behind some of those “closed doors,” too.   A lot of them.

The following is a little reminder of just how entrenched in the lobbying weeds these groups are.  The first entry below is a list of participants (taken directly from the FCC) attending meetings the agency held to negotiate a “Third Way” / Net Neutrality settlement (the same process whined about by Free Press just above).  You’ll notice the agency saw a lot of people interested in this subject.  About a third of the time, “public interest” groups had a direct line into the FCC’s offices, contrary to their spin. (It must be noted that now that the FCC is looking at the Google / Verizon Net Neutrality proposal – one which threatens to derail the FCC’s “Third Way” process – at least one “public interest” group, Public Knowledge, urges the FCC to act expeditiously on its “Third Way” proposal, completing it’s nowopen, public and comprehensive process.”  Hmmm…Quite a turnabout after quite some criticism of the agency.  Funny how that happens when the leverage turns.)

Stakeholder Meetings at FCC

June 22nd, 2010 by Edward Lazarus – Chief of Staff

Since the D.C. Circuit’s decision in the Comcast Internet-discrimination case more than two months ago, there has been a vibrant debate among stakeholders from all parts of the broadband community on the best path forward. Some stakeholders have shared their ideas with staff at the Commission, including ideas for legislative options. Senior Commission staff are making themselves available to meet with all interested parties on these issues. To the extent stakeholders discuss proposals with Commission staff regarding other approaches outside of the open proceedings at the Commission, the agency’s ex parte disclosure requirements are not applicable. But to promote transparency and keep the public informed, we will post notices of these meetings here at blog.broadband.gov. As always, our door is open to all ideas and all stakeholders.

Ex Parte Meeting Notices:
June 22, 2010 – Dish Network Corporation
June 22, 2010 – Alcatel-Lucent
June 23, 2010 – Dish Network Corporation
June 22 and 23, 2010 – Open Internet Coalition
June 23, 2010 – Open Internet Coalition
June 24, 2010 – Dish Network Corporation
June 24, 2010 – Motion Picture Association of America, Inc
June 24, 2010 – Open Internet Coalition
June 24, 2010 – AT&T Services, Inc
June 24, 2010 – Time Warner Cable
June 29, 2010 – Sprint Nextel Corporation
June 29, 2010 – Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)
June 29, 2010 – XO Communications
June 29, 2010 – PAETEC
June 30, 2010 – Public Knowledge
July 1, 2010 – Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)
July 1, 2010 – Dish Network Corporation
July 1, 2010 – Office of Engineering and Technology, FCC
July 2, 2010 – Tekelec
July 2, 2010 – American Cable Association
July 2, 2010 – American Cable Association
July 2, 2010 – American Cable Association
July 2, 2010 – American Cable Association
July 2, 2010 – Free Press
July 6, 2010 – Leap Wireless International, Inc
July 7, 2010 – US Telecom Association
July 8, 2010 – Consumers Union
July 8, 2010 – Writers Guild of America, West
July 8, 2010 – American Cable Association
July 12, 2010 – Open Internet Coalition
July 13, 2010 – XO Communications, LLC
July 14, 2010 – National Cable & Telecommunications Association
July 14, 2010 – Google, Inc
July 15, 2010 – T-Mobile USA, Inc
July 16, 2010 – T-Mobile USA, Inc
July 19, 2010 – National Cable & Telecommunications Association
July 19, 2010 – Motion Picture Association of America, Inc
July 20, 2010 – T-Mobile USA, Inc
July 20, 2010 – CTIA – The Wireless Association
July 20, 2010 – Leap Wireless International, Inc
July 21, 2010 – Leap Wireless International, Inc
July 21, 2010 – Media Access Project
July 21, 2010 – AT&T Inc
July 22, 2010 – Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)
July 22, 2010 – Free Press
July 22, 2010 – Free Press
July 22, 2010 – Clearwire Corporation
July 23, 2010 – Skype Communications S.A.R.L.
July 23, 2010 – National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
July 23, 2010 – Andrew Jay Schwartzman
July 26, 2010 – Skype Communications S.A.R.L.
July 26, 2010 – National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
July 27, 2010 – ALA, ARL and EDUCAUSE
July 28, 2010 – AT&T, Inc
July 28, 2010 – Computer & Communications Industry Association
July 29, 2010 – Open Internet Coalition
July 29, 2010 – Open Internet Coalition
August 1, 2010 – Recording Industry Association of America
August 2, 2010 – Open Internet Coalition
August 2, 2010 – Windstream Communications, Inc
August 2, 2010 – Open Technology Initiative
August 2, 2010 – Public Knowledge
August 2, 2010 – Stanford Law School
August 4, 2010 – Verizon
August 5, 2010 – National Cable & Telecommunications Association
August 6, 2010 – Telepoly Consulting

In this recent Daily Caller article, Free Press lobbyists in 2009 appear particularly active, with FCC visitor logs showing Free Press Action Fund staffers Ben Scott, Coriell Wright, Derek Turner, and Adam Lynn at the agency on 29 different occasions, from February 2009 to October 2009.

FCC Visitor Log

Feb. 3, 2009: Ben Scott, Derek Turner
Feb. 5, 2009: Coriell Wright
Feb. 6, 2009: Derek Turner
Feb. 26, 2009: Ben Scott
Feb. 27, 2009: Coriell Wright
March 5, 2009: Ben Scott, Derek Turner
March 9, 2009: Ben Scott, Derek Turner
March 26, 2009: Coriell Wright
May 12, 2009: Coriell Wright
June 1, 2009: Ben Scott
June 11, 2009: Coriell Wright
July 2, 2009: Ben Scott
July 20, 2009: Ben Scott
July 24, 2009: Ben Scott
July 28, 2009: Ben Scott, Derek Turner
July 30, 2009: Adam Lynn
Aug. 8, 2009: Coriell Wright
Aug. 10, 2009: Ben Scott, Derek Turner
Aug. 12, 2009: Coriell Wright
Aug. 13, 2009 Coriell Wright
Aug. 20, 2009: Ben Scott, Derek Turner, Coriell Wright
Aug. 27, 2009: Ben Scott, Coriell Wright
Aug. 28, 2009: Ben Scott
Sept. 8, 2009: Ben Scott
Sept. 15, 2009: Ben Scott, Derek Turner
Sept. 16, 2009: (two visits) Ben Scott
Sept. 24, 2009: Ben Scott
Sept. 25, 2009: Ben Scott
Oct. 22, 2009: Adam Lynn

And not to leave any stone unturned, here’s some PAC related activity that occurred just this week, through a group called the Progressive Change Campaign Committee PAC, in unison with MoveOn.org, CREDO, Save the Internet (Free Press) and Color of Change (co-founded by Van Jones, and who also sat on Free Press’ board for a time).   Through a highly coordinated, expensive and sophisticated web-noise campaign, this group of anti-corporate radicals wants to ensure that big corporations like Google don’t black-helicopter the Internet away for their own nefarious, anti-consumer ends (or something crazy like that).

Check out the “Emergency Petition to Google” – a modern day civil defense siren that can be enjoyed while sipping a latte and surfing the web (the need to duck-and-cover being obviated by the Internet, of course).

Lattes to be served during this "national emergency"

I don’t begrudge anyone’s use of their fundamental rights – even aggressive, below-the-belt shills.  What I do begrudge, however, is the double standard.  Thankfully for the free press (the real one), we can see a little of the duplicity being gamed here.

Hopefully, as Free Press propagandist Tim Karr urges others to do, “public interest” groups like Public Knowledge, Media Access Project and Free Press will “Man Up,” and take that tired, holier-than-thou riff off of their broken turntable.

“Pay no attention to the man behind curtain!” only lasts so long.  Toto has found you out.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

question August 14, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Your fact are slightly wrong: While the FCC met with a number of people, only a very small number of people were directly involved in trying to craft the consent agreement–the telcos and cable, Skype, Google, and OIC. None of the nonprofits were there, although OIC represents some of them. The meetings you’re discussing are the kinds of meetings anyone can get.

Why don’t you and PFF meet with the FCC more often? Anyone can. If you want good policy, you need to do the legwork, not just pen brilliant filings.

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