I guess pay-to-play doesn’t always work, even with the Obama Administration.
LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday amid revelations of his company’s political proximity — and his own closeness — to the White House and Obama administration officials.
The Daily Caller first reported one week ago on emails and documents that indicate political ties and numerous meetings between LightSquared and Obama administration officials as the was undergoing regulatory review.
Ahuja’s resignation comes after Obama’s FCC suspended conditional approval of a waiver LightSquared needed to complete its high-speed broadband network. Until two weeks ago, the company’s final approval appeared imminent.
Ahuja, who had never donated to Democrats before and has not since, gave the maximum allowable $30,400 contribution to the Democratic National Committee on the same day his lawyers were trying to arrange a meeting for him at the White House with top Obama technology adviser Aneesh Chopra and other officials.
In emails between Ahuja’s lawyers and White House officials Ahuja wanted to meet with, his lawyers pointed out that he would attend an Obama fundraiser on or about the same day he wanted the meeting.
Am I the only one that smells a Chicago-style shakedown here? “Nice company you got here. Too bad you can’t get FCC approval for your gizmo. But, for a small ‘donation,’ we’ll pass the word to the right people.”
Of course, once word got out that LightSquared’s product would essentially make the entire GPS system unusable, pressure mounted from inside the Obama Administration to deny approval for their plans. Obama might not have minded going against outside pressure, but when it comes from two of his own departments, it would have looked extremely bad for him to push for approval, especially when everyone that uses GPS — which is a large portion of the electorate, including those that vote Democratic — would be affected if LightSquared fired up their system.
However, all is not lost. Ahuja isn’t unemployed quite yet.
According to the release, Ahuja will remain LightSquared’s chairman.
And Ahuja isn’t the only one who might have a problem here.
Philip Falcone, the CEO of Harbinger Capital Partners — which created LightSquared from its predecessor, SkyTerra — was appointed to the LightSquared board on Tuesday as well. The Obama administration FCC approved Harbinger’s purchase of SkyTerra after what appeared to be a series of favorable regulatory decisions amid White House visits.
So, all the same players are still in the game, ready if another opportunity arises… like, say, Obama being re-elected, at which time he won’t care what the voters think because he can’t run again.
All the more reason to make sure he gets defeated this time.