Fox News, WorldNetDaily and the Washington Examiner have written stories based on a report produced by the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch alleging that the FCC "colluded with the leftist Free Press organization to publicly push a new plan to regulate the Internet under the FCC's so-called 'net neutrality' program."
The allegation of collusion here is about as valid as WorldNetDaily's ongoing quest to find the "real" Obama birth certificate. The evidence Judicial Watch uses to justify their allegation comes from emails between FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and media reform organization Free Press. The e-mails detail communications between Copps and Free Press regarding the placement of an op-ed in favor of net neutrality regulations (which would guarantee that internet service providers can't favor their own content over others) , as well as arrangements for a meeting between Copps and a representative of Free Press.
None of this is unusual. Government officials regularly meet and speak before outside groups, like the conservative Heritage Foundation and the progressive Center For American Progress. For example, Republican FCC commissioner Robert M. McDowell was invited to speak at Americans For Prosperity's (AFP) Right Online conference in 2010. In his speech, McDowell expressed his opposition to net neutrality legislation. Americans For Prosperity has devoted significant resources to opposing net neutrality, including creating an advocacy website at NoInternetTakeOver.com. By Judicial Watch's definition, this is evidence of McDowell "colluding" with AFP.
Judicial Watch also claims that Free Press "is improperly driving the so-called net neutrality agenda from inside the Obama administration." This would probably surprise Free Press, who attacked the net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC commission: "These rules don't do enough to stop the phone and cable companies from dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes, and they fail to protect wireless users from discrimination."
In addition, outgoing Republican FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post in opposition to net neutrality, writing, "By replacing market forces and technological solutions with bureaucratic oversight, we may see an Internet future not quite as bright as we need, with less investment, less innovation and more congestion." Two days before that, McDowell wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that "we will witness jaw-dropping interventionist chutzpah as the FCC bypasses branches of our government in the dogged pursuit of needless and harmful regulation."
It isn't clear if Baker and McDowell worked with AFP on their op-eds, but their language echoes AFP's opposition to the commission's "dangerous efforts to get regulatory control of the Internet." AFP also described the FCC commission's position as "a stunning power grab."
The opinions of government officials and outside groups sometimes coincide, and they work together on issues. But Judicial Watch, amplified by Fox, WorldNetDaily and the Examiner, want to call it collusion when they don't agree with the policy in question.