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Radio News: FCC refuses FOIA request for embarrassing reasons

Feb 06, 2018 10:50 pm
Gizmodo reports that the Federal Communications Commission is refusing to release records related to a video produced last year with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and a Verizon executive joking about installing a “Verizon puppet” as head of the FCC. It is “reasonably foreseeable,” the FCC's response to a Freedom of Information Act request said, that releasing the records would injure the “quality of agency decisions.” So public records are not available to the public because the FCC did something that, if made public, would hurt the “quality of agency decisions.” The video in question came from Pai speaking Dec. 7 at the Federal Communications Bar Association convention. Pai ended his "monologue" with a video skit about how he got to be FCC chief that works as wonderful radio theatre. It takes place at “Verizon’s DC Office” in 2003, where Pai then worked as an attorney. Kathy Grillo, Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel, tells him: “As you know, the FCC is captured by the industry, but we think it’s not captured enough, so we have a plan.” “What plan?” Pai asks. “We want to brainwash and groom a Verizon puppet to install as FCC chairman,” the executive says. “Think ‘Manchurian Candidate.’” “That sounds awesome,” Pai responds. Click here to hear a short excerpt of Ajit Pai Radio Theatre. Adam Marshall, an attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, can't fathom how the FCC cannot release the public records. “To argue that this video amounts to the same kind of deliberative process that goes on behind the scenes in terms of an agency deciding an official policy on a topic, or what actions it’s going to take, is absurd,” Marshall said. “The deliberative process is frequently used to withhold embarrassing information or inconvenient information. I have no idea how a draft of a skit that was supposed to be funny would impair the FCC’s decision-making process on anything, except on, I guess, maybe future skits.”
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