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House Report Slams FCC Chair Kevin Martin For Manipulating Data, Suppressing Information

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a scathing report released Tuesday, congressional investigators outlined a pattern of mismanagement, dysfunction and abuse of power at the Federal Communications Commission under the agency's Republican chairman, Kevin Martin.

The report -- the result of a nearly yearlong, bipartisan investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- accuses Martin of manipulating data and suppressing information to influence telecommunications policy debates at the agency and on Capitol Hill.

The report also charges that the commission has become politicized, failed to carry out some important responsibilities under Martin's leadership, and blames him for undermining an open and transparent regulatory process.

Martin also is accused of micromanaging commission affairs, demoting agency staffers who did not agree with him and withholding information from his fellow commissioners. "Chairman Martin's heavy-handed, opaque, and non-collegial management style has created distrust, suspicion and turmoil among the five current commissioners," the report says.

Martin's legacy at the FCC will be "a blueprint of what not to do," said Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who chairs the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

"The findings suggest that, in recent years, the FCC has operated in a dysfunctional manner and commission business has suffered as a result," said Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., who will be relinquishing the reins of the panel to California Democrat Henry Waxman next year.

Robert Kenny, a spokesman for Martin, said the committee "did not find or conclude that there were any violations of rules, laws or procedures." Martin is widely expected to leave the commission after the White House changes hands.

Among the findings of the 110-page report:

-- Martin manipulated the findings of an FCC inquiry into the potential consumer benefits of requiring cable companies to sell channels on an individual -- or "a la carte" -- basis. The House investigation concludes that Martin undermined the integrity of the FCC staff and may have improperly influenced the Congressional debate on the matter by ordering agency employees to rewrite a report concluding that a la carte mandates would note benefit consumers.

-- Martin tried to manipulate the findings of an annual FCC report on the state of competition in the market for cable and other video services to show that the industry had a big enough market share to permit additional government regulation. When the full commission voted to reject that conclusion, Martin suppressed the report by withholding its release.

-- Under Martin's leadership, the FCC's oversight of the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund, which pays for special telecommunications services for people with hearing or speech disabilities, was overly lax. This resulted in overcompensation of the companies that provide these services by as much as $100 million a year -- costs that were ultimately passed along to phone company customers.

Kenny said Martin makes no apologies for his "commitment to serving deaf and disabled Americans and for fighting to lower exorbitantly high cable rates that consumers are forced to pay."