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FCC’s O’Rielly Praises Pai for Bureau Staff Openness

Says he is getting answers where once there were refusals and blank stares

FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly said Wednesday that one of FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s process reforms that should get more attention is his instruction to bureau chiefs about sharing information.

O’Rielly blogged that the chairman had given “his unequivocal direction that staff should be completely up front with all Commissioners, not just the Chairman.”

Though he concedes that it might be easier for him now, as a member of the majority, to get those questions answered while the minority did not, he said “no one should ever be put in that position again.” The office of lone Democrat Mignon Clyburn had not responded to a request for comment on her access to bureau info under the new chairman.

The “again” was because he alleged in the piece that among the bureau staffers under Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, “reticence seemed to be the order of the day.”

He said that previously, when he sought info, “the most knowledgeable people in the building seemed to be under direction not to share certain information or answer certain questions.”

He said their answers came in wry smiles or blank stares—or sometimes simply that he would not be getting the information.

He said he could differentiate between information requests that might not be granted to ones that should.

“I certainly respect the need to prevent the release of sensitive information and prevent staff from wasting their time on endless requests,” he wrote. “At the same time, there is a difference between asking staff to share data points needed to make a decision and seeking internal deliberative work that could undermine the Chairman’s agenda, which is certainly a much smaller universe.”