Bill would eliminate industry-sponsored travel for FCC

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A measure introduced by U.S. Sen. John McCain bans industry-sponsored travel by FCC commissioners and staff, according to a statement from the senator's office.

McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee, attached the measure to the FCC Reauthorization Act of 2003 introduced June 13. The Arizona Republican also wants to allocate funds to audit the FCC's troubled "E-Rate" program, used to fund Internet access for schools, and would also impose a one-year lobbying ban on FCC employees.

On May 22, the Center released a report detailing FCC Commissioners and staff received nearly $2.8 million in travel and entertainment expenses over the past eight years, most of it from the telecommunications and broadcast industries that the agency regulates. McCain referenced the information in the report in his statement, addressed to President George Bush.

The bill was co-authored by South Carolina Democrat, Sen. Ernest Hollings.

"Although this is perfectly legal and it is often appropriate for FCC officials and staff to attend such conventions, conferences, or meetings, it should be without the appearance of impropriety," McCain wrote. "Therefore, the bill authorizes the Commission sufficient funds to pay for their own travel costs in the future."

In addition, the bill also sets aside funding for an audit of the E-Rate program. On Jan. 9, the Center reported the $2.25 billion federal programthat helps schools and libraries connect to the Internet was "honeycombed with fraud and financial shenanigans, but the government officials in charge say they don't have the resources to fix it."

In one other reform provision, McCain wants to impose a one-year lobbying ban on high-level FCC staffers who leave the agency's employment. The Center explored the FCC's close relationship with the industry it regulates in its Feb. 19 report, "The FCC's Rapidly Revolving Door."

Read the complete text of the statement.

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