Interview with Representative Michael Turner

Interview with Representative Michael Turner

By John King, USA - September 15, 2011

KING: But up first tonight, troubling questions about why the Obama White House ignored appeals from the Pentagon and other government officials and approved a major broadband Internet license for a major campaign supporter. It is the second consecutive day a Republican-led congressional committee has explored whether campaign contributions play a role in big government awards. As yet critical to note, there is no proof of that, just questions. But the hearings are exposing inconsistent, sometimes nonexistent, explanations from the Obama White House. Yesterday we told you about Solyndra a now bankrupt clean energy company whose default left taxpayers with more than a half billion dollar bill.

The Obama administration approved that loan despite warnings the company's plan didn't add up, Congress now investigating whether political support for the president greased the wheels. Tonight's example is a company called LightSquared. It was green lighted to build a new broadband Internet network despite objections from several government agencies. The Pentagon complained the most. Warning this new network could undermine satellite based weapons targeting and other sensitive systems not to mention your efforts to get driving directions.


GEN. WILLIAM SHELTON, COMMANDER, U.S. AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND: Based on the test results and analysis to date, the LightSquared network would effectively jam vital GPS receivers, and to our knowledge thus far, there are no mitigation options that would be effective in eliminating interference to essential GPS services in the United States.


KING: Two big questions tonight. Did top Obama administration officials give favorable treatment to LightSquared including overruling the Pentagon because its major investor is a big Obama campaign and Democratic Party fund-raiser? And in its response to this and other inquiries, is the White House violating this commitment?


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me say it as simply as I can. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency. Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made.


KING: On that transparency question, it seems pretty clear the administration is falling short. Exhibit "A" the Federal Communications Committee chairman, Julius Genachowski, himself, a big Obama fund-raiser had a huge role in green lighting the LightSquared project. Genachowski was called to testify at today's hear on the controversy, but he didn't show.


REP. MICHAEL TURNER (R), OHIO: Personally, I believe this is an absolute effort by the chairman to avoid the oversight questions, by Congress to avoid the responsibility of the issue of how this will affect GPS and what the FCC's process is. Appear to be irregular as to how this manner is moving forward.


KING: Let's dig deeper beginning with the congressman you heard right there, the chairman of the subcommittee looking into the issue, Republican Congressman Michael Turner of Ohio. I want to start, Mr. Chairman, with your own words about why you thought it was so important to have this hearing. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TURNER: We cannot afford to have federal telecommunications policy especially where it affects national security to be made in the same way that the White House has partialed (ph) out a half billion dollars in loan guarantees to the failed Solyndra Corporation, a large political campaign contributor of the president.


KING: That's a brig big charge off the top there saying that this was done for political reasons that the LightSquared deal and the Solyndra deal -- we covered that issue yesterday -- was done for political contributions. Is that what you think or do you have evidence to support that?

TURNER: Well the issue is that the FCC chairman refused to come before our committee and answers questions as to why they would be proceeding with the LightSquared technology at a time when there's unambiguous testimony from General Shelton that this absolutely conflicts with GPS and threatens our national security. So these are questions that you have reported and that you know. I was merely citing them indicating that these are things that we have to be concerned about as we look to irregular process that's going through the FCC and unambiguous answer from DOD that this threatens our national security.

KING: I think there are 100 percent reasons to explore this and to provide oversight and to find out why the Pentagon objections were ignored. To find out why the chairman of the FCC wouldn't show up at your hearing, when I assumed they said he was going to come. But for you as the head of this committee and the new Republican majority as it asserts more oversight is going to face these questions. To say that off the top you're insinuating off the top this wasn't just a bad judgment, you think this was a political judgment. Can you prove that?

TURNER: I think what people are saying is that the FCC is following an irregular process. This absolutely affects our national security and the FCC chairman failed to come before our committee and answer the questions as to why this is an issue that's even proceeding. There are serious questions as to what is occurring here.

We know General Shelton is very concerned about the process moving forward. And I think these are the types of questions, these are the reports that are circulating that certainly the FCC needs to take into consideration. And that they need to answer. Why are we in a situation where unambiguous evidence shows this affects our national security and our GPS and yet things appear to be proceeding?

KING: I'm going try one more time. I agree there are legitimate questions that need to be answered. As you seek to answer them, do you have any evidence before you on this day where you can say, ah-ha, political contributions led the FCC to overrule the objections of another agency or is that's just what you're trying to figure out? TURNER: What we're trying to figure out is why is the FCC going forward with an irregular process with a system that absolutely violates our national security and our GPS? And there are questions that clearly the FCC chairman did not want to answer by not appearing before our subcommittee today.

KING: What was their explanation as why he didn't show up?

TURNER: Well he had indicated that he thought it would prejudice the process when he was in my office. And I'm very concerned about, well what is the process? How is this moving forward? Why is it that it's unambiguous statements from DOD that this violates our GPS or our national security, but yet the FCC is continuing to advance this? The reports that -- of how this is moving forward I think should cause everyone concern. Those are the types of issues that we need to discuss.

KING: Let me ask you. I'm trying to get in a point and I'm not sure I can, but your gut judgment on this, and based on what you've seen in documentation so far, is this a bad decision or a corrupt decision?

TURNER: Well, I think, you know, the outcome is the same. The questions are why would this be moving forward and why shouldn't this be stopped? It's fairly clear that this violates our national security but yet no one can tell us exactly what the status is at the FCC, why this is moving forward and really the answer is this should be stopped.

KING: The outcome might be the same, but again, do you understand what the responsibility that you have, that you have to be careful about saying things like doled out for political purposes if you can't have a piece of paper or have witnesses to say, here's the proof?

TURNER: What we want to ensure is that there is not undue influence. That's what hearings are for. That's why we're reviewing this process and that's why we're looking at something which appears to be fairly clear as a threat to our national security.

KING: Congressman, appreciate your insights tonight. We'll keep watching this issue as your hearings keep going.

TURNER: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, sir. 

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