'Transparent' FCC Doesn't Want To Reveal Any Details About Ajit Pai's Stupid Reese's Mug
from the bringing transparency back dept
One of FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s claims about how he’s changed the FCC is that he’s making it more transparent. And, to be fair, he did make one key change that his predecessors failed to do: which is releasing the details of rulemakings before they’re voted on. That was good. But in so many other ways, Pai has been significantly less than transparent. And this goes all the way down to incredibly stupid things, like his silly stupid giant Reese’s coffee mug. That mug is so famous, that even John Oliver mocked it in his story on net neutrality:
Taylor Amarel had some questions about the mug, and made a FOIA request using Muckrock, that might shed some details on the mug (and, perhaps, a few other things):
I would like to obtain all emails sent to, from, or copied to Deanne Erwin, Executive Assistant, containing any of the following non-case-sensitive key-strings: “reeses”, “ethics”, “mug”, “liberals”, or “Reese’s” from January 1, 2017 to present day.
But the wonderfully “transparent” Ajit Pai… apparently didn’t want that. The FCC’s General Counsel sent back an oddly accusatory email to Amarel, demanding a ridiculous amount of completely unnecessary information — claiming it needed that info to assess fees to respond to the FOIA request:
In our attempts to discern your fee categorization, we became aware that the name you provided, Taylor Amarel, is likely a pseudonym. In order to proceed with your request, please provide us with your name, your personal mailing address, and a phone number where you can be reached…. We ask that you provide this information by May 29, 2018. If we do not hear from you by then, we will assume you are unwilling to provide this information and will close your requests accordingly.
As Muckrock noted, there is no reason why anyone should need to prove that they are using their real name or to provide all this personal info to the FCC, and it feels like an intimidation technique. Muckrock does note that such info might be useful in determining if Amarel should be granted media status, which might help waive fees, but Amarel did not request to be covered under such status.
Amarel handed over the info… and was then told that it would cost $233 to get the emails related to Pai’s Reese’s mug. Using Muckrock’s own crowdfunding platform, users chipped in to fund the money, so hopefully at some point the FCC will live up to its legally required transparency and tell us about that stupid mug.