This Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be looking into the planned $3.6 billion deal between Verizon and several cable companies for spectrum / cross-promotion of each others’ services.
This has the so-called public interest groups and various competitors (same thing, almost) concerned about the possible anti-competitive consequences of the deal. Not surprisingly, professional naysayers, Joel Kelsey of Free Press, and Professor Tim Wu (ex of the FTC, and once chairman of Free Press), are testifying at the hearing.
I’ll cut to the chase on this one. If I were a Senator at that hearing, I’d want to know more from these two guys because, quite frankly, there’s more than meets the eye here.
To this end, I’d want to ask a couple of questions, like:
Question: Mr. Kelsey – Free Press lobbied for LightSquared. George Soros funds LightSquared. George Soros funds you. Don’t you have a proprietary stake in the matter at hand? That is, seeing your sugar daddy’s competitors get kneecapped? Where’s the public interest in that?
Question: Mr. Kelsey – Can you be more specific about how LightSquared compensated you for your lobbying on its behalf?
Question: Professor Wu – You say that Free Press is funded by foundations and that it takes no corporate money. But we know how that works here in Washington. Foundations are the front groups for corporate donations. Mr. Wu, being a former Free Press chairman, have you ever had explicit or implied agreements from corporations to funnel funding through any foundation or third-party to Free Press? If no, have you ever suspected that that’s how it works?
Question: Mr. Kelsey – A number of prominent board members from the foundations that give you money have a Google funding connection. Knowing this, is it inconceivable that Google’s “voice” finds its way to your group at Free Press? Is it inconceivable that in the incestuous world of foundation giving that Google’s or others’ corporate money is “washed,” so-to-speak, before arriving to Free Press via foundations?
Question: Mr. Kelsey – If you won’t say that Google contributes even indirectly to Free Press, isn’t it a fact that you receive substantial logistical, information sharing and other significant resources from Google to help your numerous lobbying efforts here in Washington – efforts which you know help them and their policy objectives? What about others, like Sprint, who shared your zeal to defeat the competitive efforts of AT&T when it sought to merge with T-Mobile? Is something like that at play here in this hearing?
Question: Mr. Kelsey – Why should we trust your testimony when you have shown a blatant disregard and lack of respect for some our brethren in the House – namely, Representative Marsha Blackburn – when finally after 8 months you responded, and incompletely at that, to her request to know who your funders are? You said then, at a hearing before Rep. Blackburn, that you’d readily comply, but it then took the better part of a year, and at least another formal request, to make that disclosure happen. How do I know you won’t pull a “Blackburn” on me here today?
Why is having answers to these questions important?
Well, for nearly a decade Free Press has been pictured (in the anti-incumbent-leaning mainstream media) as above the fray, clean, a voice for the little guy. I think they’re anything but that. Knowing more about them would reveal the real puppet masters and interests behind their “public interest” branding.
At least then we’d have the clean facts, not the laundered clothesline. We’d know that the noise they make is really about private interests, not the public interest.
Free Press is the same outfit that has relentlessly pushed campaign finance reform and all of its transparency and openness requirements onto broadcasters and communications companies. Why shouldn’t this same standard apply to these scoundrels, who use the public interest to serve their private masters?
Joel – do we have to wait another 8 months to find that one out? This “Senator” wants to know.