The Obama administration is facing new scrutiny amid charges that Gen. William Shelton, head of the Air Force Space Command, was pressured to change Congressional testimony to favor a large company with financial ties to Democrats.
According to Fox News, Shelton told House members in a classified briefing this month that he was encouraged to change his prepared congressional testimony to favor LightSquared, a satellite and broadband communications company. Interestingly, the LightSquared is funded by Philip Falcone, a major Democratic donor.
The Daily Beast has more:
According to officials familiar with the situation, Shelton’s prepared testimony was leaked in advance to the company. And the White House asked the general to alter the testimony to add two points: that the general supported the White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use; and that the Pentagon would try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days.
LightSquared is apparently planning to build a new, 4G phone network that has many in government concerned. Apparently, the new technology is so powerful that it would severely impede the military's high-precision GPS receiver systems (the satellite network that is relied upon by both the military and private industry).
Fox reports that the technology could be five billion times stronger than the military's GPS system. A source explained the scenario as follows:
"Imagine trying to have a telephone conversation while your neighbors are hosting a rock concert. That’s the situation the military is facing."
The Washington Post provides even more context:
At issue is a waiver granted by the FCC in January that allows LightSquared to operate mass-market cellphones on its network. Competitors, the GPS industry and some federal agencies warned that LightSquared’s devices would interfere with signals for GPS receivers used by everyone from the military to soccer moms for navigation.
Among those concerned is Shelton, who allegedly told House members that the Obama administration wanted him to say that these interference problems could be avoided. In the end, he refused to make such a claim. A House Armed Services Committee staff member confirmed that Shelton was "being asked to say things he didn't agree with." It's unclear at this point who in the White House pressured him.
An interview with Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) corroborates these claims. “There was an attempt to influence the text of the testimony and to engage LightSquared in the process in order to bias his testimony,” he said. “The only people who were involved in the process in preparation for the hearing included the Department of Defense, the White House, and the Office Management and Budget.”
LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja, though, claims that the company isn't using politics to impede the regulatory process. He explains that his company's main concern is expanding broadband access. Mail Online writes:
The White House confirmed it had suggested changes to the testimony but insisted this was routine and not influenced by politics.
Mr Ahuja has given just over $30,000 to both the Democratic and Republican parties in the last two years, reported the Daily Beast.
Mr Falcone and his wife put more than $60,000 in 2009 towards the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Watch Ahuja briefly discuss the controversy: