Today, Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) along with a group of seven Committee Republicans sent a letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), requesting documents related to the Administration's involvement with the telecommunications company LightSquared. The letters follow up on a pending decision by the FCC to allow LightSquared to move forward with a mobile broadband proposal that has the potential to interfere with the Global Positioning System (GPS) signal.
"Recent events surrounding the downfall of solar-panel maker Solyndra, which could cost tax-payers approximately $535 million, further emphasize our concerns about this Administration's perceived preferential treatment toward donors," the letter states.
Earlier this month, the Committee held a hearing to examine concerns and issues associated with GPS interference related to Federal scientific activities. Several news stories have emerged identifying questionable timing involving fundraising donations to the Democratic Party and meeting requests from LightSquared representatives to high-level Administration officials. According to one story, LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja donated $30,400 to the Democratic National Committee on the same day that two other LightSquared employees contacted the White House for meetings with senior officials.
In the letter, the lawmakers wrote, "As with the LightSquared project, questions about the Solyndra deal include whether Solyndra wasn't scrutinized closely because a major investor in the business was a major fundraiser for the President's 2008 campaign While some may call it a coincidence, we remain skeptical that shortly after two separate sets of meetings and meeting requests one year apart, LightSquared employees made five-figure donations to the Democratic Party."
The letter also questions several instances where the White House apparently pressured senior Administration officials to alter their Congressional testimony in order to support the President's policy initiative to expand commercial broadband. "We were also troubled to note a softer tone toward the LightSquared project in the Administration officials' written testimonies when compared to the technical assessments they submitted to NTIA" the letter states.
The letter continues, "these actions contradict the words of President Obama, who, in a 2009 memo on scientific integrity to the heads of executive departments and agencies, said: "The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions.'"
"Sugarcoating testimony over critical matters that include the lives of Americans is irresponsible, and inevitably raises questions about the Administration's priorities," the lawmakers wrote.
Prior to the Committee's September 8th hearing, staff requested copies of comments submitted to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) by agencies under the Committee's jurisdiction. Despite follow-up requests, the following agencies have yet to produce the documents requested of them: Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Commerce (DOC). "This non-compliance by Administration officials was the first of many red flags raised about the situation regarding LightSquared," the lawmakers wrote.
The letters, signed by Chairman Hall along with Vice Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA), Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), and Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI), request documents and records of communication between LightSquared and the White House.