Senator Bill Nelson Should Avoid Hypocrisy, Politics in Tomorrow’s FCC Oversight Hearing

by Mike Wendy on August 15, 2018

Tomorrow, the Senate is going to hold an FCC oversight hearing, which in all likelihood will touch upon a recent FCC IG report that was critical of the agency’s handling of a purported DDoS attack on its ECFS comment system in May of 2017, during the run-up to its Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIF).

Of course, the IG report is much ado about nothing. Its critique is not so much about Chairman Ajit Pai as it is on his Obama-holdover CIO, David Bray, whom the Chairman relied upon when reporting out the ECFS’ irregularities and problems to the press and Congress. But, not letting a “crisis” go to waste, Democrats in Congress have seized upon it to show that the RIF is somehow “broken.”

Um, OK.

Yes, the ancient system isn’t up to snuff. It’s been that way for a long time; the present FCC is working to correct it. Of course, that didn’t stop the previous Obama FCC from using its known infirmities to kite its Net Neutrality plebiscite, er, comments, to “prove” Americans wanted Title II to constrict the Internet. But, I digress.

As to the report, Chairman Ajit Pai’s office helped the IG compile it, rightly avoiding, at the IG’s request, public comment before it was released. And the result, according to Pai, was a report that “debunks the conspiracy theory that my office or I had any knowledge that the information provided by the former CIO was inaccurate and was allowing that inaccurate information to be disseminated for political purposes.”

End of story, right?

Maybe (hopefully).

Senator Bill Nelson. – who is in a tight race for re-election down in my former home state, Florida – will likely lead the charge at tomorrow’s hearing. But, this could look a tad odd. You see, Nelson appears to be setting up his own conspiracy theory / excuse in case he loses his re-election bid in November. Last week, the Senator told the Tampa Bay Times that “Russian operatives” have gotten into Florida’s voter registration system and have “already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about.” (Where have we seen this playbook before?)

Governor Rick Scott – his opponent in the election – is pretty upset about this. After all, it’s Scott’s election system, and its potential outcome, that Nelson is knocking. The Governor and others want Nelson to cough up the details. But when pressed to further elaborate, Nelson wouldn’t, stating to the Tampa Bay Times that that information is “classified.”

Weird how the Senator’s “I can’t tell you anything more” comment is OK for him to make (without any outcry from his D colleagues), but when Ajit Pai complies with his IG’s request for a similar quiescence, he gets pilloried by Democrats for being “evasive” and “misleading.”

Anyway, subsequent to the Tampa Bay Times report, the Senator tweeted:

I and several of my Senate colleagues are trying to make sure state officials are aware of the ongoing Russian threat so they take the steps necessary to safeguard our elections. It’s unfortunate that some FL officials would try to use this issue for personal, political gain. (Emphasis added)

Oversight hearings are important functions of Congress – it has a right to know how the taxpayer’s resources are being used. As to the purported DDoS attack, or whatever it was, yes, the FCC poorly managed the matter. In particular, it should not have relied so heavily on David Bray’s incomplete analysis when making statements about it. OK. We get it.

Let’s hope Senator Bill Nelson recognizes this and avoids bashing Chairman Pai for “personal, political gain” over the non-issue. Of course, Nelson is free to do that. But, then, we’re free to remind him of his hypocrisy, too.

It’s time to move on. There are more important issues to deal with – like the deployment of broadband to all Americans than silly politics.

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