'Transparent' FCC Doesn't Want To Reveal Any Details About Ajit Pai's Stupid Reese's Mug

from the bringing-transparency-back dept

One of FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s claims about how he’s changed the FCC is that he’s making it more transparent. And, to be fair, he did make one key change that his predecessors failed to do: which is releasing the details of rulemakings before they’re voted on. That was good. But in so many other ways, Pai has been significantly less than transparent. And this goes all the way down to incredibly stupid things, like his silly stupid giant Reese’s coffee mug. That mug is so famous, that even John Oliver mocked it in his story on net neutrality:

Taylor Amarel had some questions about the mug, and made a FOIA request using Muckrock, that might shed some details on the mug (and, perhaps, a few other things):

I would like to obtain all emails sent to, from, or copied to Deanne Erwin, Executive Assistant, containing any of the following non-case-sensitive key-strings: ?reeses?, ?ethics?, ?mug?, ?liberals?, or ?Reese?s? from January 1, 2017 to present day.

But the wonderfully “transparent” Ajit Pai… apparently didn’t want that. The FCC’s General Counsel sent back an oddly accusatory email to Amarel, demanding a ridiculous amount of completely unnecessary information — claiming it needed that info to assess fees to respond to the FOIA request:

In our attempts to discern your fee categorization, we became aware that the name you provided, Taylor Amarel, is likely a pseudonym. In order to proceed with your request, please provide us with your name, your personal mailing address, and a phone number where you can be reached…. We ask that you provide this information by May 29, 2018. If we do not hear from you by then, we will assume you are unwilling to provide this information and will close your requests accordingly.

As Muckrock noted, there is no reason why anyone should need to prove that they are using their real name or to provide all this personal info to the FCC, and it feels like an intimidation technique. Muckrock does note that such info might be useful in determining if Amarel should be granted media status, which might help waive fees, but Amarel did not request to be covered under such status.

Amarel handed over the info… and was then told that it would cost $233 to get the emails related to Pai’s Reese’s mug. Using Muckrock’s own crowdfunding platform, users chipped in to fund the money, so hopefully at some point the FCC will live up to its legally required transparency and tell us about that stupid mug.

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Comments on “'Transparent' FCC Doesn't Want To Reveal Any Details About Ajit Pai's Stupid Reese's Mug”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“In order to proceed with your request, please provide us with your name, your personal mailing address, and a phone number where you can be reached….”

Aren’t these the same assholes who had no problem with letters of support submitted in the name of the dead, people who submitted nothing, people who knew nothing about net neutrality, and people who opposed what the FCC was doing but someone used their names to give glowing copypasta support?

Also can someone cite the part of the FOIA law that demands all of this information be turned over on demand?? Or is the FCC still making shit up as they go…

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow, talk about being overcharged.

There’s no way that it requires a GS-15 attorney to "craft the necessary search string" for the records. There’s also no way that it would take 15 minutes to create the query for each of the 5 requests that were aggregated.

Finally, according to the fee letter, the actual document search will be performed by "the staff that are subject to the request." So, that means that for at least part of this request, Pai himself will be searching his emails for the relevant material? Why does that seem unlikely to me?

Anonymous Coward says:

Routine glances for zombies, then... I. Nearly. Plotzed!

Another RECORD! — EIGHT YEARS THREE MONTHS since the second of THREE COMMENTS! — Back for two sentences!


NO WAY that’s a real person. (Try again, "nasch"!) EIGHTH that has over SIX YEAR GAP.

While Masnick is going on about a suspicious coffee mug!

You fanboys ask why I’m here? NO OTHER SITE HAS SUCH HOOTS!

(I AM running out of astonishment, though. FITS my view of Techdirt as dis-information.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Routine glances for zombies, then... I. Nearly. Plotzed!

Why, for the love of god, would they need zombie accounts? If someone wanted to reply to their own story why wouldn’t they just do so as Anonymous Coward? I have an account but have forgotten my password and I’m too lazy to look it up. Maybe in 8 years I’ll finally feel like doing so then you can complain I didn’t make a post in 8 years.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:


It sounds like, at least in the case of the FCC, our officials are so accustomed to obstructing FOIA requests that they’re now doing it reflexively, without consideration that by releasing harmless content they can better argue they respond appropriately to FOIA requests.

Maybe the FCC is so far removed from consequences that it can’t imagine anything happening from the public losing confidence in government departments.

It’s time to presume FOIA is ineffectual, and that the government is willfully obstructing efforts towards transparency or sunshine in order to conceal systemic wrongdoing.

Anonymous Coward says:

In our attempts to discern your fee categorization, we became aware that the name you provided, Taylor Amarel, is likely a pseudonym

So apparently faking the names of senators and citizens for posting pro-NN repeal commentary is alright because it’s only the "idea" that matters… but to make a FOIA request you can get denied if the guy on the other side suddenly thinks your name doesn’t sound real enough?

Just how many dicks did Bennett have to suck? Thirty-seven? In a row?

Richard Bennett says:

Re: Re:

I’ll have you know it was thirty-nine.

You Bray-hating, Bodefacey Techdirtbags think you can pirate your way through government and regulation, but you will never defeat true love. Never! Pai is here to stay, along with that mug you anonymous fucks are so obsessed over. Guess what’s not? Net neutrality, bitches!

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