Unfree Press

Bureaucrat-activist collusion


In November 2010, activists at the "media reform" group Free Press worked with Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps and his staff to write and place an op-ed in support of net neutrality. The effort was a small but telling part of the campaign to sell net neutrality, a policy approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December that limits Internet service providers' ability to prioritize the information passing through their networks (see "Internet Cop," March).

According to email messages made public through a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative group Judicial Watch, the process started on November 1, when Jen Ettinger, a Free Press communications staffer, emailed Copps' office suggesting that he write an op-ed for the Albuquerque Journal tied to an upcoming conference on Internet policy. "I'm happy to help draft, or place if need be," Ettinger wrote. 

By November 9, the article was in process. Copps' staff had agreed to write the draft, but Free Press would manage the placement process. FCC staffers also asked Free Press to "triple check event details" included in the piece. Free Press looked over the manuscript, told Copps' staff that it "looks great," and sent it along to the Journal after agreeing to handle any final changes required by the paper. On Monday, November 15, the piece "Open Internet Needed for All" ran under the byline "Michael J. Copps, Federal Communications Commissioner."