Anyone who was expecting Democrats to aggressively and intelligently grill FCC chair Ajit Pai over his egregious lies about his agency's fabricated "cyberattack" story or his deeply unpopular net neutrality repeal was disappointed after the Senate Commerce Committee's much-anticipated oversight hearing on Thursday, which ultimately ended up being a "complete joke" that produced little of substance and few answers to important questions.
"Democrats at the FCC 'oversight' hearing could have easily pressed Pai on his bullshit 'I knew nothing' DDoS claim by pointing out his press shop actively maligned and misled reporters. But nah."
"You'd hardly even know three FCC staffers were just proven to have repeatedly lied to the press, public, and Congress about a DDoS attack that never happened," freelance technology writer Karl Bode noted in a series of tweets during the hearing, as senator after senator passed up opportunities to press Pai on his false claims that a cyberattack—and not a flood of pro-net neutrality traffic—brought down the FCC's public comment system last year.
"Democrats at the FCC 'oversight' hearing could have easily pressed Pai on his bullshit 'I knew nothing' DDoS claim by pointing out his press shop actively maligned and misled reporters, and at least three staffers gave false statements Congress and FBI investigators. But nah." Bode added. "That the FCC lied repeatedly to the press, public, and Congress about a bogus DDoS attack is a complete afterthought at this 'oversight' hearing. Even in this corrupt mess of a country, that's fucking incredible."
This FCC Congressional oversight hearing is, as usual, a complete joke. Softball questions, misrepresentations galore.
You'd hardly even know three FCC staffers were just proven to have repeatedly lied to the press, public and Congress about a DDOS attack that never happened.
— Karl Bode (@KarlBode) August 16, 2018
"But enough about three FCC employees lying repeatedly to the press, public, FBI, and Congress for the better part of a year about a DDOS that never happened, let's talk more about the 'race to 5G!'"#SenateCommerce
— Karl Bode (@KarlBode) August 16, 2018
Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, echoed Bode's critique of Senate Democrats on Thursday, arguing that if a Democratic FCC chair was accused of misleading Congress and the public like Pai has been, Republicans would have ruthlessly demanded answers.
While giving credit to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) for pressing Pai on the bogus cyberattack story—which Pai blamed on the FCC's former Chief Information Officer (CIO)—Aaron told Common Dreams that Democrats "missed an opportunity to really grill Ajit Pai about misleading Congress and the public about the fake attack on the FCC that was really just millions of people trying to get through and tell them how much they despised Ajit Pai's policies."
"There were many opportunities to talk about how the FCC misled the press and mistreated reporters and how much this administration has tried to discredit public input rather than heeding it," Aaron added. "That should have been the story of this hearing, but they didn't make Pai sweat nearly enough."
Just imagine how many questions Wheeler would have gotten from Republicans if he'd been accused of misleading Congress? @brianschatz did great job of grilling Pai, but nobody follows up? Nothing about lying to the press and trashing reporters? Do better, Demorats. #senatecommerce
— Craig Aaron (@notaaroncraig) August 16, 2018
Watch Schatz's exchange with Pai, one of the only confrontational moments of Thursday's largely jovial and banter-filled hearing:
Exchange between Sen. @brianschatz & @AjitPaiFCC over a previous claim by the @FCC that the agency was the victim of a cyberattack (DDoS). Full video here: https://t.co/5DYkNA3Lr5 pic.twitter.com/Hxxj7MHRO2
— CSPAN (@cspan) August 16, 2018
As Pai skated through the Senate Commerce Committee's oversight hearing on Thursday without much effort, a coalition of prominent open internet advocacy groups submitted a questionnaire to dozens of congressional incumbents and their challengers ahead of November's midterms, demanding to know whether they will side with the public over telecom giants and commit to backing the legislative effort to undo Pai's net neutrality repeal.
"How to lose your election in one easy step: vote against net neutrality."
—Sarah Roth-Gaudette, Fight for the Future
Led by the ACLU, Free Press Action Fund, Fight for the Future, and several other prominent organizations, the new pressure campaign poses a straightforward question to current members of Congress and aspiring lawmakers running in competitive districts: "Have you signed, or do you firmly commit within the next 30 calendar days to sign, the discharge petition for the House net neutrality CRA, and will you vote in favor of the net neutrality CRA if it comes up for a vote?"
"This is not complicated... Any lawmaker who fails to do their job and sign the discharge petition is exposing themselves as a puppet of Big Cable," said Sarah Roth-Gaudette, executive director of Fight for the Future, referring to the House measure that would force a vote on a motion to restore net neutrality. "How to lose your election in one easy step: vote against net neutrality."