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FCC, High Court Picks Tip-Toe Around Politics

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s picks for the Federal Communications Commission and the Supreme Court have something in common. Both are trying to avoid wading into political hot water.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai, elaborating a bit on comments in a Congressional hearing, assured Democrats in a letter that he did not believe the media was the enemy of the people — as Trump has claimed — but finessed the comment by adding that he understood the president to have been saying that it was “fake news” that was the enemy of the people. (Trump has taken a liberal view of “fake news,” including CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and others, particularly when reporting on possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.) Pai looked to close the matter by saying “these comments are part of a larger political debate into which I will not be wading.”

Over on Capitol Hill, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was also deferring questions about so-called “dark money” funding TV and radio ads and the Citizens United Supreme Court case by saying he did not want to get into politics, though he did say that there was value in anonymous speech, with disclosure being a weapon to chill speech.

The nomination process also continues to fuel TV ad buys.

One senator pointed to a $10 million “dark money” buy in support of Gorsuch, while the GOP was soliciting funds from supporters for its own six-figure buy to promote the nominee, saying it was another way to fight back against the media and Democrats “obstructing the president’s agenda.”