Washington Prowler

Power Plays

How Obama took control over the Internet. Bachmann makes Boehner-Cantor's day.

By 3.25.11

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INTERNET GRABBERS
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa continues to demand answers from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski over why the head of a supposedly independent federal agency visited the White House 81 times between January 2009 and November 2010. It was during this time that Genachowski and his staff were developing a regulatory scheme that would ultimately place control of the Internet in the hands of the FCC. 

Of special interest to Issa is a meeting held September 17, 2009, which took place four days before Genachowski made a speech at the Brookings Institute laying out the broad framework for the FCC's Internet regulations. On September 17, White House records indicate, Genachowski and his chief of staff, Edward "Eddie" Lazarus, met with Larry Summers, the then-director of the National Economic Council. White House and Treasury Department sources say that Genachowski provided Summers with a draft of his Brookings remarks. On September 21, within an hour of Genachowski's speech at Brookings, President Obama made a speech in Troy, N.Y., laying out Genachowski's proposal in detail.

"It was understood that the White House wanted to see the speech so that the President could tout the announcement in his own speech," says a White House source. "We also wanted to have the ability to have Valerie Jarrett's team to reach out to some of our outside supporters to let them know that we were moving on an issue that was important to them, so we needed to have a copy of the speech with the details."

In fact, the White House reached out to several left-wing organizations that had been pressing for government regulation of the Internet: Free Press, Public Knowledge, the Center for American Progress, for example, and gave them details of the Genachowski and Obama remarks the night before either man made his speech.

According to the Treasury source, Summers made clear to both FCC officials that their plan was going to create problems for the Administration in the business community. "Larry was just about the only guy in this administration that business people could talk to, so Larry really took the brunt of the anger and frustration that was focused on the administration," says the Treasury source. "So Larry was really the only guy who could give Julius the download from the business community."

HOW DO YOU SPELL RELIEF?
Staffers for House Republican leadership are saying their bosses are breathing sighs of relief with word leaking out that Rep. Michele Bachmann is mulling a presidential exploratory committee.

"[John Boehner and Eric Cantor] were nervous about what she might be up to, and as long as it isn't about making their lives miserable, they're more than happy to encourage her outside activities," says a senior aide to the Republican Conference Committee, who has ties to both the Speaker's office and the majority leader.

Bachmann has privately told supporters and outside consultants who work for her that her focus is on generating enough support so that she can influence any number of House races in the 2012 cycle and get true conservatives elected.  "She's using the DeMint model," says an adviser.

But an exploratory committee might cut into ambitious plans she has for her leadership PAC, as well as her re-election fund. "I wouldn't sell her short," says the adviser. "We're talking about a woman who raised more money than anyone else in the House last cycle. We will raise what we need to ensure she is in a strong position to accomplish whatever goals she has."

According to House leadership sources, there was real concern that Bachmann planned to lead a "back bench" revolt against GOP leadership in the late spring and summer as budget and appropriations issues continued to fester.

"The way things are playing out, we aren't going to be able to accomplish more than the most basic kinds of cuts or reform; nothing nearly as aggressive as what we talked about on the campaign trail," says a Cantor aide, who on Thursday was attending Cantor's two-day fundraising event for Washington lobbyists and donors. "We know we're going to lose some of the Tea Party types, and we were looking at a Bachmann back bench of about 50 members who really would have made our work more difficult. If she's out in Iowa and elsewhere fundraising and speaking and building her base, those are days she won't be able to focus on us, and that's a good thing."

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