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As Former Commerce Chairman, McCain Is Big Fan of Deregulation

Sen. John McCain

Despite having been born half a century before the Internet’s debut, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) has had his fair share of experience with the Web.

Throughout his Senate career, McCain has sat on and, for several years, chaired the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, examining countless laws and policies regarding telecommunications.

Though the McCain camp did not return phone calls about the Arizona Senator’s telecom policies and there is no information on his campaign Web site regarding his stance on the issue, one can draw certain conclusions from his voting record and committee reputation.

Over the years he has emerged as a staunch supporter of telecom deregulation, going so far as to be one of five Senators to vote against the 1996 Telecommunications Act. That bill established the first major changes to U.S. telecom policy in 62 years, outlining a deregulated system aimed at sparking competition among telecom companies.

McCain was the only Republican Senator to vote against the conference report, claiming that the act did not create enough competition.

His position as chairman of the committee at times brought criticism on the presidential hopeful.

In 1997, there was some controversy over campaign donations that McCain took from technology corporations that were under the committee’s oversight. The Senator shrugged off these criticisms, saying nearly every company falls under the Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction in some way.

Perhaps the most prominent piece of telecom legislation in recent years is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which addresses President Bush’s decision to use warrantless wiretapping to combat terrorism.

McCain voted for the final version of FISA that included a provision giving telecommunications companies retroactive immunity against lawsuits for their role in aiding the warrantless wiretapping.

Controversy over McCain’s position on FISA arose last month when Chuck Fish, a lawyer for the campaign, said telecom companies should be forced to testify before Congress before being granted immunity.

In a letter sent to the National Review and posted on their Web site, senior policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said Fish misspoke. He added that the Senator fully supports the FISA modernization bill passed by the Senate “without qualification,” clarifying that McCain believes the telecommunications companies should be granted retroactive immunity regardless of whether they agree to testify.

Although McCain voted for final passage, he voted against an amendment offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would make the bill the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance can be conducted.

The Arizona Senator has also sponsored bipartisan legislation to protect children from the dangers of Internet predators. The SAFE Act of 2007, co-sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), would make it a federal crime if electronic service providers fail to report child pornography. He has also supported legislation that repealed the Fairness Doctrine, which forces radio and television shows to represent both sides of an issue during a broadcast.

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