Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industries it Presumably Regulates
by Norm Alster

What is a captured agency? It's when an agency that is supposed to be regulating an industry is actually controlled by that industry.

Below I have excerpts from investigative journalist Norm Alster's expose on the FCC being a captured agency. Published by: Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Harvard University 

 A link to the entire article can be found at the bottom of this page.

 Chapter One: The Corrupted Network

Renee Sharp seemed proud to discuss her spring 2014 meeting with the Federal Communications Commission. As research director for the non-profit Environmental Working Group, Sharp doesn‘t get many chances to visit with the FCC. But on this occasion she was able to express her concerns that lax FCC standards on radiation from wireless technologies were especially hazardous for children. The FCC, however, should have little trouble dismissing those concerns. Arguing that current standards are more than sufficient and that children are at no elevated risk from microwave radiation, wireless industry lobbyists don‘t generally have to set up appointments months in advance. They are at the FCC‘s door night and day. Indeed, a former executive with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), the industry‘s main lobbying group, has boasted that the CTIA meets with FCC officials ―500 times a year.‖1 Sharp does not seem surprised. ―There‘s no question that the government has been under the influence of industry. The FCC is a captured agency,‖ she said.2 Captured agency. That‘s a term that comes up time and time again with the FCC. Captured agencies are essentially controlled by the industries they are supposed to regulate. A detailed look at FCC actions—and non-actions—shows that over the years the FCC has granted the wireless industry pretty much what it has wanted. Until very recently it has also granted cable what it wants. More broadly, the FCC has again and again echoed the lobbying points of major technology interests. Money—and lots of it—has played a part. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and CTIA have annually been among Washington‘s top lobbying spenders. CTIA alone lobbied on at least 35 different Congressional bills through the first half of 2014. Wireless market leaders AT&T and Verizon work through CTIA. But they also do their own lobbying, spending nearly $15 million through June of 2014, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). In all, CTIA, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and Sprint spent roughly $45 million lobbying in 2013. Overall, the Communications/Electronics sector is one of Washington‘s super heavyweight lobbyists, spending nearly $800 million in 2013-2014, according to CRP data. But direct lobbying by industry is just one of many worms in a rotting apple. The FCC sits at the core of a network that has allowed powerful moneyed interests with limitless access a variety of ways to shape its policies, often at the expense of fundamental public interests. As a result, consumer safety, health, and privacy, along with consumer wallets, have all been overlooked, sacrificed, or raided due to unchecked industry influence. The cable industry has consolidated into giant local monopolies that control pricing while leaving consumers little choice over content selection. Though the FCC has only partial responsibility, federal regulators have allowed the Internet to grow into a vast hunting grounds for criminals and commercial interests: the go-to destination for the surrender of personal information, privacy and identity. Most insidious of all, the wireless industry has been allowed to grow unchecked and virtually unregulated, with fundamental questions on public health impact routinely ignored. Industry controls the FCC through a soup-to-nuts stranglehold that extends from its wellplaced campaign spending in Congress through its control of the FCC‘s Congressional oversight committees to its persistent agency lobbying. ―If you‘re on a committee that regulates industry you‘ll be a major target for industry,‖ said Twaun Samuel, chief of staff for Congresswoman Maxine Waters.3 Samuel several years ago helped write a bill aimed at slowing the revolving door. But with Congress getting its marching orders from industry, the bill never gained any traction. Industry control, in the case of wireless health issues, extends beyond Congress and regulators to basic scientific research. And in an obvious echo of the hardball tactics of the tobacco industry, the wireless industry has backed up its economic and political power by stonewalling on public relations and bullying potential threats into submission with its huge standing army of lawyers. In this way, a coddled wireless industry intimidated and silenced the City of San Francisco, while running roughshod over local opponents of its expansionary infrastructure. On a personal level, the entire system is greased by the free flow of executive leadership between the FCC and the industries it presumably oversees. Currently presiding over the FCC is Tom Wheeler, a man who has led the two most powerful industry lobbying groups: CTIA and NCTA. It is Wheeler who once supervised a $25 million industry-funded research effort on wireless health effects. But when handpicked research leader George Carlo concluded that wireless radiation did raise the risk of brain tumors, Wheeler‘s CTIA allegedly rushed to muffle the message. ―You do the science. I‘ll take care of the politics,‖ Carlo recalls Wheeler saying.4 Wheeler over time has proved a masterful politician. President Obama overlooked Wheeler‘s lobbyist past to nominate him as FCC chairman in 2013. He had, after all, raised more than $700,000 for Obama‘s presidential campaigns. Wheeler had little trouble earning confirmation from a Senate whose Democrats toed the Presidential line and whose Republicans understood Wheeler was as industry-friendly a nominee as they could get. And while Wheeler, at the behest of his Presidential sponsor, has taken on cable giants with his plans for net neutrality and shown some openness on other issues, he has dug in his heels on wireless. Newly ensconced as chairman of the agency he once blitzed with partisan pitches, Wheeler sees familiar faces heading the industry lobbying groups that ceaselessly petition the FCC. At CTIA, which now calls itself CTIA - The Wireless Association, former FCC commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker is in charge. And while cell phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung, along with wireless service behemoths like Verizon and AT&T, are prominent CTIA members, the infrastructure of 300,000 or more cellular base stations and antenna sites has its own lobbying group: PCIA, the Wireless Infrastructure Association. The President and CEO of PCIA is Jonathan Adelstein, another former FCC commissioner. Meanwhile, the cable industry‘s NCTA employs former FCC chairman Michael Powell as its president and CEO. Cozy, isn‘t it? FCC commissioners in 2014 received invitations to the Wireless Foundation‘s May 19th Achievement Awards Dinner. Sounds harmless, but for the fact that the chief honoree at the dinner was none other than former wireless lobbyist but current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Is this the man who will act to look impartially at the growing body of evidence pointing to health and safety issues? The revolving door also reinforces the clout at another node on the industry-controlled influence network. Members of congressional oversight committees are prime targets of industry. The cable industry, for example, knows that key legislation must move through the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Little wonder then that subcommittee chairman Greg Walden was the second leading recipient (after Speaker John Boehner) of cable industry contributions in the last six years (through June 30, 2014). In all, Walden, an Oregon Republican, has taken over $108,000 from cable and satellite production and distribution companies.5 But he is not alone. Six of the top ten recipients of cable and satellite contributions sit on the industry‘s House oversight committee. The same is true of senators on the cable oversight committee. Committee members were six of the ten top recipients of campaign cash from the industry

This ebook is available under the Creative Commons 4.0 license. Published by: Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Harvard University 124 Mount Auburn Street, Suite 520N Cambridge, MA 02138 USA CONTENTS  

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Disclaimer: Dammit Jim, I am an engineer, not a doctor! The information shared on this website is the result of peer reviewed, scientific literature I have read. This is in no way medical advice. Should you need medical advice, please seek the help of a medical professional.