FCC chairman Ajit Pai joked with telecom lobbyists that he was a "Verizon puppet" and "Manchurian candidate" right before he killed net neutrality.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai made himself one of the most hated men in America with his decision to wipe out consumer protections that guaranteed internet service providers could not censor, block, or throttle content online.
Now the FCC is withholding records of staff conversations relating to Pai's "performance" at the annual Federal Communications Bar Association dinner in December, where he joked about being a "Verizon puppet" and a "Manchurian candidate" just days before the vote to end net neutrality.
Gizmodo reporters requested records about the event, but the agency claims they are privileged because "exposing the agency's decisionmaking process" would cause "injury to the quality of the agencys decisions."
But experts think the FCC is abusing its power.
Adam Marshall, an attorney with Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told Gizmodo, "The idea is that it would be difficult for agency employees to do their job if every off-the-cuff idea they come up with is exposed to public scrutiny." Marshall called the agency's reasoning for withholding the documents "absurd."
A former corporate lawyer for Verizon who vowed to take a "weed whacker" to net neutrality, Pai sparked outrage last year as he steamrollered his fellow commissioners, and ignored hundreds of internet companies and all 83 percent of voters who supported the open internet rules. He even obstructed New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's investigation into millions of fraudulent public comments posted in favor of Pai's deregulation scheme.
Pai and his loyalists at the FCC are mortified his joke got out, because it speaks to his real attitude and principles. Under scrutiny for his lack of regard for public accountability, his agency is responding by once again stifling public accountability, further discrediting him as an honest or good faith public servant.