PART II: The Trump-Republican FCC Captured, Corrupted, Consumer Advisory Committee
PART 2 FAST FORWARD 2020: The FCC Consumer Advisory Committee: The Stench from the Front Row Got Worse.
PART 1: EXPOSED: Corrupt Trump Republican FCC: Puppets of Verizon & AT&T.
Fast forward and as I stare at the collection of members on the current FCC Consumer Advisory Committee, (CAC), one would think it couldn’t have gotten so much worse. I was wrong. The words ‘conflicts of interest’ or ‘ethical behavior’ seems to have been left out and it is now “how to buy an FCC committee”.
Just for fun, let’s go through the members of the Committee, as well as their financial ties to AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter, who are now controlling members of the CTIA, the wireless association, the NCTA, the cable association, and USTelecom the telephone, now broadband association, not to mention, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, of which AT&T and these associations are all on this Committee that is supposed to represent you, the ‘consumer’.
Legit Advocate Groups
First, there are some actual consumer advocate groups, and others who appear to not be ‘coin-operated’.
- National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates
- National Consumer Law Center
- Consumer Federation of America
- Consumer Reports
- Milwaukee PBS
- Mass. Department of Telecommunications and Cable
There are other groups and people who I did not vet, but out of 27 members (25 + chair and vice chair, but not counting “alternates”) you can decide about the balance of power.
NOTE: Good Work vs Cash Cow: Many of the groups that are coin-operated can be doing good work that actually helps people. But, the trade-offs are straightforward; they won’t actually take on the companies doing the harm as they don’t want to take on their cash cow. It is a conflict of interest that, as we’ve seen, does more harm than good. Worse, most never disclose who are their funding puppet masters controlling their actions.
Also, we’ve done a previous outing of many of these groups and associations:
- Don’t Believe Those Against Net Neutrality, February 2017 Title II and Privacy — Funded by the Phone, Cable and Wireless Associations: USTA, NCTA, & the CTIA
The Companies and Associations on the CAC.
- CTIA — The Wireless Association
- NCTA — The Internet and Television Association
- USTelecom — -now the ‘wired broadband association’.
- America’s Communications Association- ACA Connects for smaller companies.
- National Association of Broadcasters
- Consumer Technology Association
— — — — — — — — — — -
What is AT&T, the wireless association, the cable association, the telephone association, (and the small cable association), and the association of broadcasters and consumer technology doing on a ‘consumer ‘advisory committee? We assume that AT&T, due to its various businesses, is a member and funds almost all of these associations, who, in turn, fund many of these other groups.
NOTE We do not include all of the AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, et al. foundation grant monies flowing to other members of the Committee.
WE THANK PROPUBLICA PUBLICLY FOR PUTTING UP THESE IRS FINANCIAL REPORTS
- CTIA, the Wireless Association & Mywireless.org
In 2018, the CTIA had $74,937,129 in revenues and the largest members are, of course, AT&T and Verizon, though the other carriers are members, it appears.
CTIA has also created an astroturf (fake grass-roots consumer) group called “Mywireless.org”, which, in 2018 was given $1.1 million from CTIA. As we will discuss, this group is funding some of the groups and people on the Committee.
We use the actual IRS 990 Forms to detail some of the funding. We eliminated a few columns and left the name and address, tax ID, the classification, the amount of money, in this case, $1,116,100, and what it was used for, such as ‘general support’.
Mywireless.org is listed as a “civil rights, social action and advocacy group” — really.
§ Classification (NTEE) Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy N.E.C.
§ Nonprofit Tax Code Designation: 501(c)(4) Defined as: Civic leagues, social welfare organizations and local associations of employees, created to promote community welfare for charitable, educational or recreational purposes.
We will see that this group funds other groups, probably to try to separate the CTIA from the obvious ties, which would then tie back to AT&T and Verizon.
- NCTA — The Internet and Television Association
Next we have the NCTA, originally the cable association, which showed $66 million in revenues in 2018, and again, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter are most likely the largest members. Two things stood out:
a) The NCTA sponsors a slew of astroturf groups, such as Broadband For America — with almost 300K annually.
b) Piggly Wiggly. We noticed that former FCC Chairman, Michael Powell, was making almost $6 million dollars in 2018 as the head of the association.
In a previous outing, we laid out that Powell was only making about $4 million, as of 2014. In an era when many can’t afford broadband, much less the triple play, here is a former FCC chairman being paid millions, probably out of a budget that is dumped into the cost of your service, and getting a salary increase of about 30+% in just 4 years (2014–2018).
- Consumer Technology Association
With $120 million in revenues and board members that include AT&T, T-Mobile, Facebook, IBM and Ford, among others, they, of course, know what the consumer wants and needs, right?
FCC Corrupted Advisors: Rogues Gallery
We start with the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee Chairman.
- Stephen Pociask, Current Chair of this Committee
He is the President/CEO American Consumer Institute, and he and his organization have been outed over and over since 2006.
Here is long time telecom investigative reporter, Karl Bode’s story from 2006–14 years ago.
The ‘American Consumer Institute’ Doesn’t actually represent consumers…
by Karl Bode Aug 22 2006
“Except the American Consumer Institute isn’t actually a consumer group. It’s an amalgamation of think tank reps pushing a free market ideological agenda under the guise of consumer advocacy. A quick WhoIS notes that the ACI website is registered to Stephen Pociask, a telecom consultant and former chief economist for Bell Atlantic, (now Verizon) who via groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, (CEI) works to shape data that argues against government regulation of industry.”
Mywireless.org, gave his group $60,000, 30K a year in 2017 and 2018.
“Steve Pociask, President and CEO of The American Consumer Institute, penned an op-ed advocating for Title II to be rolled back — A position which was high on the lobbying agenda of AT&T and Verizon.
“According to a Vice article, the American Consumer Institute has been partially funded since 2010 by “a foundation controlled by lobbyists from the cell phone industry, called MyWireless.org.”
“Anne Danehy, one of the members of the board at ACI, “has worked with large corporations, using public opinion research to create positive public images.”
- Debra Berlyn
Vice Chair, is a Board Member and Officer of the National Consumers League. The NCTA gave her and her group $50,000 in just 2018
Previously, I detailed a plan to raise rates in 2000, Why would a consumer group take money from companies, which just helps the companies claim credibility — and controls the consumer groups so that do not examine or investigate the companies’ actions or services?
In this case, the National Consumer League has a long history, tarnished by stuff like this.
- Call For Action Shirley Rooker, President
These two are very long standing CAC members who are also on the list of compromised ethics and questionable acts.
These 2 quotes are part of the 2000 plan to raise rates known as CALLS, which shows that the companies essentially bought-off the consumer groups, including Call to Action, which is not only on the current committee but on it for the last 2 decades. I note that when we were not allowed to speak at the truth-in-billing event (based on our original design) in 2004, none of these groups stood up to defend our position. They threw us under the bus.
Moreover, AARP, not to mention others like the Hispanic group LULAC, that were previously on the committee and represented by Time Warner Cable, got money from the telcos to do campaigns and used their distorted language, instead of protecting their constituents.
This also shows that besides the monies we expose here from the different associations, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc. al. gives millions to these groups as part of their foundation grant giving.
At any time, Call to Action and AARP could have outed all of this financial influence. But in the end, they are still on the Committee, and still collaborators, and are to blame for why our prices continue to rise, etc.
This also calls into question all of the legit consumer groups that also let this happen. How legit are they when they watch but don’t confront the unethical practices and conflicts of interest that are in front of them? History is filled with what could have been stopped had people of conscience stood up to the bullies.
The Questionable Tax Groups
- Americans for Tax Reform, Katie McAuliffe, Federal Affairs Manager
How is this group about consumers and telecommunications?. ATR was given at least $75,000 in 2017 and 2018 from Mywireless and the NCTA cable association.
- Johnny Kampis
Is registered as “Serving individually as a subject-matter expert, Special Government Employee”
Taxpayers Protection Alliance, according to Sourcewatch, is a front group for groups tied to the Koch political network.
“The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is an advocacy front group that is part of the Koch political network. It is largely funded by money funnelled through groups tied to Kochs, such as Americans for Job Security, Center to Protect Patient Rights (now called American Encore), and Freedom Partners.
“TPA claims to advocate against “runaway deficits and debt” and “publish timely exposés of government waste, fraud, and abuse.” Social media and blogs are the primary means of disseminating advocacy materials. TPA maintains linkages to similar international groups in other countries such as Australia, Canada, Poland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
The group gets a least $40,000 a year from Mywireless.org and the NCTA.
- Michael Santorelli
He is a lawyer at NY Law School “Serving individually as a subject-matter expert, Special Government Employee” The School got $125,000 from the cable association, 2017–2018, and has been doing events with a group called ALEC.
- National Association of Broadcasters
Larry Walke, Associate General Counsel, Legal and Regulatory Affairs
The group has a ‘celebration’ every year and the NCTA pays $9,500 to be part of it. At that price, I wonder how big the shrimp are?
- American Legislative Exchange Council
I saved the ugliest American for last as All of the puppet masters, AT&T, Comcast, (and Verizon at one point) were members, as well as their associations.
ALEC is designed to remove the rights of citizens in all states by having corporate-funded ‘model’ legislation be presented by corporate-funded state legislators that are helped by corporate-funded lobbyists and lawyers to pass this this legislation that benefits the corporate funders. Why there are no RICO or anti-trust cases against the organization is beyond me.
So, AT&T et al., in the ALEC telecommunications group, created a 5G bill or an anti-municipality broadband bill, which is then turned into ‘model legislation’ that can be used by AT&T-funded, mostly ALEC member state politicians, who have been also groomed through AT&T foundation grant money to get elected. Because these are state bills no one is tracking that the same bills shows up in 30 states at a time, with tweaks to the language.
But it gets worse as AT&T then made all of this ‘FCC-federally friendly” and, as we will discuss, Ajit Pai and Brendan Carr took this and made their 5G regulations based on the state-based model legislation. And now, with ALEC actually on the Consumer Advisory Committee, what was unthinkable a decade ago has come to pass.
First, both the CTIA and NCTA give ALEC money, almost $40,000 in just 2018.
But this does not even begin to show just how sleazy all of this is.
In 2007, I noticed a pattern to the legislation being put forward in multiple states, and though the language and titles may be changed to cover over their tracks, the end result was the same. I wrote two articles for the Harvard Nieman Foundation for Journalism Watchdog Project about how this was done, now 13 years ago.
- How much of your state’s legislation is being drafted by industry? November 30, 2007. The American Legislative Council, or ALEC, lets corporations cultivate legislators and win support for industry-written bills while not technically breaking lobbying rules — and paying no taxes.
- Wisconsin: A case study in how corporations get the legislation they want January 31, 2008. This article describes how model corporate bills get introduced and enacted in Wisconsin, to the detriment of the common good.
In 2017, I wrote
“I just posted an article from 2013 that outlines how a Petition filed by AT&T, which was based on ‘model legislation’ created by ALEC, is now the game plan for the current FCC in 2017. The plan is to remove all regulations, all obligations, and consumer protections so that the corporations can optimize profits.
“In 2017, AT&T is now on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council, (along with Pharma, Exxon Mobil, Koch industries and Altria, (who owns Phillip Morris, among other tobacco companies)). Meanwhile, the NCTA, the association-lobbying group for the cable industry, is the ‘private chair’ of the Communications and Technology Task Force.
“This is a partial list of the cabal that was part of ALEC’s telecom group in 2013, the last available data, though it could have changed since then. Oh wait, these are all members of a) CTIA and b) USTA or c) NCTA or all 3.”
In 2017, I wrote:
“In 2013 then-commissioner Pai spoke to the same ALEC group. Moreover, New York Law school hosted an event with ALEC in 2013, and probably others since then.”
And, as I previously mentioned
“In 2017, Republican FCC Commissioner, Michael O’Rielly, spoke at ALEC’s (American Legislative Exchange Council) Communications & Technology Task Force and called on the group to take actions to help the FCC take down net neutrality and the speech is listed as business as usual at the FCC — we know that the FCC is captured. “
But it doesn’t stop there. The FCC’s current entire 5G plan is based on the ALEC model legislation — but ironically, it goes against the rights of the states that ALEC claims is their hallmark
“FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr went to Indianapolis, Indiana on September 4th, 2018 to announce the FCC’s new proposed 5G wireless regulations that are directly tied to “model legislation” most likely created by “ALEC”, the American Legislative Exchange Council. On the floor of the Indiana Senate statehouse, he was joined by the Hoosier politicians, (most, if not all, appear to be getting money from AT&T el al.).”
And the ties with ALEC and the Trump Administration show the extent of which this toxic dump extends. In 2016, soon to be Vice President Mike Pence said “I was for ALEC before it was cool” according to NBC and other media orgs.
“Jul 29, 2016 — “I was for ALEC before it was cool!” the vice presidential candidate told the group Friday. ALEC has been criticized for legislation it crafted.”
These are just the surface disturbances of the what appears to be a conspiracy to take over the FCC’s advisory committees. As we know from past experience, the ‘vote’ on what actions will be taken and the recommendations presented, essentially makes this committee a puppet for AT&T et al.
And, I need to add, this is happening throughout the FCC’s Advisory Committees.
Silicon Beat writes:
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo quits FCC advisory board on broadband
“The mayor of San Jose on Thursday quit an FCC broadband advisory board, decrying its lack of progress and saying the group seems to be working for the interests of the telecom industry and not the public.”
If the Democrats win and regain power, will they clean house and require that ethics are returned; that those who have ties to the corporations that the FCC is supposed to be providing oversight for, not be able to fill the committees’ membership?
The FCC states:
“The purpose of the Committee is to make recommendations to the Commission regarding consumer issues within the jurisdiction of the Commission and to facilitate the participation of all consumers in proceedings before the Commission.”
We had suggested in 2003 and now in 2020 — clean house and let’s have consumers, ALL consumers, participate. Let’s get rid of these coin-operated, corporate-controlled, unethical, sludge monsters that are working for the very companies that are harming America.
And for everyone one of you who takes money from the corporations on the FCC consumer advisory committee, or throughout America, where you are supposed to be protecting the rights of consumers — if you think you are doing this because you believe you are helping people — for all those you have ‘saved’, you threw the rest of us under the bus.
I’ve been a senior telecom analyst now for 38 years and what now makes up AT&T et al. were my clients for the first decade+. My VITA.
It is said that history is written by the winners. The history of broadband, internet and communications you probably quote and think you know is the one rewritten by AT&T and Verizon — That’s right. We lost so far.