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This is getting serious, both on Capitol Hill and within the FTC.
Senator Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) is considering a range of drastic options such as salary cuts and/or elimination of some political appointee positions to induce the FTC and Antitrust Division to take his concerns about the agencies' March 5 antitrust jurisdiction agreement seriously. Hollings, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, State, Justice and Related Agencies, uncorked this threat during a Subcommittee hearing on the FTC's fiscal year 2003 budget on March 19.
And in rare dissents from approved testimony, two commissioners have objected to its characterization of the FTC/Justice Dept. antitrust jurisdiction Agreement implemented earlier this month without their participation.
As luck would have it, Hollings is also chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and that committee will "conduct a formal review" of the Agreement he informed Attorney General John Ashcroft and FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris in a March 11 letter. The materials that the FTC provided on February 27 are not sufficient, Hollings said.
Hollings instructed both agencies to provide details of all meetings and proceedings held to craft the Agreement and copies of all documentation used by the agencies in formulating the Agreement, including all internal memoranda and briefs and recommendations filed by outside parties. As of March 22, Senate sources said Hollings had not received the requested documents,.
FTC Chairman Timothy Muris has unsuccessfully requested to meet with Senator Hollings at least three times since the agreement was temporarily abandoned on January 17 after Hollings expressed both substantive and procedural concerns [FTC: WATCH No. 582, February 11]. Hollings was flabbergasted that the agencies went ahead and minted the agreement so soon after he had expressed profound doubts about it, and had been led to believe that the agencies would brief Congress until his committee could independently determine whether the agreement is in the public interest, his spokesman said.
Hollings has complained most loudly that the DOJ/ FTC Agreement moves antitrust jurisdiction over the commercial communications media to the Justice Dept., whose operations are less subject to Congressional oversight than …