House Democrats Tell FCC to Preserve Documents

U.S. Capitol
(Image credit: Gary Arlen)

As Congress continues to get ready for the eventual change in Administration, the House Committee chairs have sent letters to the agencies they oversee--in this case House Energy & Commerce Committee to the FCC and Federal Trade Commission--telling them not to destroy any documents that could be relevant to any upcoming or past congressional investigations.

In the letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, among dozens of committee letters to agencies ranging from Agency for Global Media (USAGM) to the Social Security Administration, House E&C Democratic leaders reminded him of the agency's obligation under law to "to preserve information relevant to congressional oversight" in the new Congress.

But they also said that beyond the legal requirements, they wanted the commission also to preserve all information related to investigations undertaken in the current Congress.

They were not pointing any fingers explicitly at the FCC, but did say in the letter that the Trump Administration had "obstructed numerous congressional investigations by refusing to provide responsive information."

The FCC has caught some flak from House E&C Dems over what they said were inadequate responses for document requests in the past.

In this week's letter, the Democratic leadership made it clear that regardless of whether or not the FCC had supplied the information sought in past requests, it wanted to make sure that "any information previously requested by Congress—and any other information that is required by law to be preserved—is saved and appropriately archived in a manner that is easily retrievable."

On the other side of that coin, the legislators warned against any affirmative efforts to get rid of any documents.

"Any employee who conceals, destroys, or attempts to conceal or destroy a federal record may be subject to fine and imprisonment for up to three years," the letter warned. "We urge you to ensure that your employees and officials do not delete or destroy any official government records, including “information created, manipulated, communicated, or stored” electronically." It said that meant "taking reasonable steps to prevent the partial or full destruction, alteration, testing, deletion, shredding, incineration, wiping, relocation, migration, theft, mutation, or negligent or reckless handling that could render the information incomplete or inaccessible." Then, if any information had already been deleted or marked for deletion, the commission take all reasonable steps to recover it.

The document letter was announced the same day the committee sent another standard administration change letter to the FCC advising it not to vote on any controversial items in the FCC's lame duck period. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.