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FCC closes AOL doc probe of Disney

The FCC on Friday closed an investigation of The Walt Disney Co., which breached FCC rules last September when one of its outside attorneys sent protected documents regarding AOL and Time Warner to Disney executives who weren't cleared to read them.

AOL complained loudly last fall when a lawyer at the Washington law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand forwarded protected documents on to Disney lobbyists Preston Padden and Marsha MacBride. Padden and MacBride had the documents for five days before Disney informed the FCC of the breach, causing the investigation.

The FCC decided Disney did violate its rules, but felt the matter had been sufficiently resolved to close the investigation. Even though the investigation closed last week, the FCC had given Disney permission to begin reviewing documents again last November.

Last week, MacBride was named new FCC Chairman Michael Powell's chief of staff, charged with managing the agency's affairs. An FCC spokesman says the investigation never targeted MacBride because she never read the e-mail that included the protected documents.

It is unclear whether MacBride will recuse herself from issues involving Disney, although sources say she is likely to take a "very conservative" approach and work closely with the FCC's General Counsel to determine appropriate action.
- Paige Albiniak