After Chat With Ethics Lawyers, FCC Boss Declines NRA Gun Award For Killing Net Neutrality
from the good-call,-hoss dept
Last month you might recall that the NRA gave FCC boss Ajit Pai the Charleton Heston Award for Courage for his decision to dismantle popular net neutrality rules. The tone-deaf celebration was a pretty hollow attention seeking move, but was also an ouroboros of blistering idiocy. One, the NRA appears oblivious to the fact that net neutrality rules would have helped it as well, since the entire point is to ensure the internet is a level playing field for all competitors and voices. Net neutrality protects free speech (even speech you don’t agree with), something you’d think the folks at the NRA would be able to appreciate.
Two, there’s simply nothing courageous about teaming up with Comcast to screw over the public and the nation’s small businesses and startups. Pai’s decision is widely derided as the dumbest decision in the history of modern tech policy. And while ISPs like to frame net neutrality as partisan to sow division and prevent meaningful rules, surveys repeatedly indicate the rules had broad bipartisan support.
It didn’t take long for ethics experts to point out that the award and the NRA’s gift to Pai (a Kentucky long rifle) was over $200 and therefore violated ethics rules and lobbying restrictions:
Anyone care to explain to me why the FCC thinks that the ethics rules allow Ajit Pai to accept the gift of an expensive handmade gun from the NRA, an entity whose interests he can affect (and has affected) by the performance of his official duties? Am I missing something? https://t.co/S6ocyWIV7H
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) February 24, 2018
After a chat with FCC ethics lawyers, Pai appears to have finally realized that accepting the award probably wouldn’t be a particularly bright idea. As such, Pai wrote a letter to the NRA declining the gun while insisting this whole thing simply caught him by surprise:
“As you know, once my staff became aware of what was happening, they asked backstage that the musket not be presented to me to ensure that this could be first discussed with and vetted by career ethics attorneys in the FCC?s Office of General Counsel,” Pai wrote, according to an FCC source who relayed the text of the letters.
?Therefore, upon their counsel, I must respectfully decline the award,? he wrote. ?I have also been advised by the FCC?s career ethics attorneys that I would not be able to accept the award upon my departure from government service.”
Of course Pai and his staff could have rejected the award at any point (the award occurred on February 23), but then they wouldn’t have been able to enjoy all the yucks at the expense of startups, consumers, and the health of the internet. From stem to stern this was just a PR disaster, and you couldn’t have paid a fiction author to craft a dumber, more absurd narrative. And while those behind the effort likely believe they were being clever trolls, Millennial voters likely got a decidedly different impression from the tone-deaf gala.