Last year it became clear that the Republican-led FCC, under the guidance of telecom shill Ajit Pai, would roll back the regulations limiting the ability of big corporations to own local broadcasting stations. It happened to coincide so very serendipitously with Sinclair Broadcasting’s expansion march to turn most people’s news into an ultra right-wing propaganda machine. The New York Times is reporting on Thursday that an investigation by the FCC’s oversight committee has been underway since that time.
“For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai’s relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting,” Mr. Pallone, the top Democrat on the committee that oversees the F.C.C., said in the statement to The New York Times. “I am grateful to the F.C.C.’s inspector general that he has decided to take up this important investigation.”
The inquiry could also add ammunition to arguments against the Sinclair-Tribune deal. Public interest groups and Democratic lawmakers, including Mr. Pallone, are strongly opposed to the deal, arguing that it would reduce the number of voices in media and diminish coverage of local news.
To be clear, nothing erroneous has been reported yet. To also be clear, Ajit Pai is as genuine as a four-dollar bill made out of spaghetti. There has been ample evidence that Sinclair Broadcasting lobbyists and executives were corresponding with Pai and his FCC lackeys for months.
Just seven months into Mr. Pai’s tenure, in December 2012, he welcomed a group of visitors to his office: Barry M. Faber, Sinclair’s general counsel, and two of the company’s Washington-based corporate lawyers.
In two follow-up visits with Mr. Pai’s chief of staff, Matthew Berry, in January and February 2014, Sinclair sent Rebecca Hanson, a lobbyist for the company who had just left a job at the F.C.C.
Federal law prohibits top officials from lobbying former colleagues immediately after leaving government, but Ms. Hanson was not senior enough at the F.C.C. to be subject to the restriction. Agency records showthat she met with Mr. Berry, and shared with him data that showed the benefits to consumers of joint sales agreements.
Antitrust experts said this new investigation may complicate the reviews of the Sinclair-Tribune deal by the F.C.C. and the Justice Department. Even if the deal were approved, they said, any conclusions of improper conduct by Mr. Pai could give fuel to critics to challenge the review in courts.
“An investigation could cast a cloud over the whole process,” said Andrew Schwartzman, a senior fellow at Georgetown Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation. “For the review, knowledge of an investigation could generate caution and even delay completion of the deal.”
Sign up for the Trump Impeachment newsletter.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.