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Elizabeth Warren accuses advisory panel for FCC of corruption

FCC Chair Ajit Pai must "explain the extent to which CSRIC may be corrupted by corporate influence," the Democratic senator says.

Angela Lang/CNET

A panel that provides policy advice to the Federal Communications Commission is "stacked with corporate insiders," Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said Monday. She cited a blog post by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), which showed more than half of all Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) members are direct employees of private companies or of industry trade groups.

This could lead to allegations that rather than working for American consumers, the FCC is working for "giant telecom companies", Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, tweeted Monday.

"This is the definition of corruption: industry members writing the rules to benefit themselves & their rich friends," she added in another tweet. Sen. Warren has called on FCC Chair Ajit Pai to "explain the extent to which CSRIC may be corrupted by corporate influence."

POGO FCC panel members

POGO's analysis of membership looked at the affiliations of the 183 people who have served on the council since 2011.

"In total, 124 members -- over 67 percent -- represented industry," POGO said. "And that figure is likely conservative because it does not take into account that some groups our methodology categorized as representing civil society or academia receive substantial financial funding from industry."

A letter from Warren and Rep. Pramila Jayapal dated June 27, spotted earlier by The Hill, asks for information from Pai on whether the panel is "inappropriately dominated by industry (pdf) insiders."

"The industry-dominated personnel on the panel have recommended policies that are directly in line with the wishes of the companies from which their members are drawn," the letter says, adding that POGO says a lack of expertise among FCC members means they rely increasingly on the panel's recommendations.

The FCC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Warren and Jayapal have also asked for any communications between Pai or an FCC member and any members of the panel since Pai became chair.

The senator has been targeting technology issues in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election: Warren's presidential platform includes a call to break up tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple because they have too much power over the economy, society and democracy.

Last month, she also asked Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim to remove himself from heading up the antitrust investigation into Google and Apple, arguing his previous work as a lobbyist on behalf of the two tech giants makes for a conflict of interest. The US Department of Justice is investigating Silicon Valley's tech juggernauts over whether they're engaging in "anticompetitive conduct."