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Sen. Rockefeller Blasts Darrell Issa for ‘Bullying Tactics’ With FTC Hearing

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.VA.) has sent a blistering letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA.), chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, accusing him of “using heavy-handed, bullying tactics to undermine due process and to inappropriately assist the defendant, LabMD” by calling a hearing Thursday about the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC has brought an enforcement action against the medical testing company, LabMD, charging it violated the security and privacy of almost 10,000 consumers.  The case is now the subject of a trial before an administrative judge.

Issa claims to be concerned about allegations that another company lied in its testimony to the FTC in regard to the LabMD data,  Rockefeller, one of the best friends consumers have in Congress and chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, writes:

“This allegation would be more properly raised by LabMD's defense counsel to the administrative law judge presiding over this trial. The trial process provides defense counsel with ample opportunity to impugn the veracity or integrity of a witness or evidence. It is not the job of Congress to serve as an advocate for one particular side and attempt to sway a judge who makes determinations of fact based on evidence formally presented under well-established rules and procedures.”

Thursday’s 9:30 am ET hearing, at which LabMD’s CEO  Michael Daugherty is scheduled to testify, is called The Federal Trade commission and Its Section 5 Authority: Prosecutor, Judge, and Jury.

“While Congress obviously has an important role in government oversight, I believe you have overstepped your bounds in this instance,” writes Rockefeller. “It is not appropriate for Congress to intervene in the midst of a trial and to adversely affect its proceedings, as you have done. The inappropriate timing and nature of your investigation are buttressed by the revelation that LabMD is being represented by a former member of your Committee staff. This raises the question of whether LabMD directly sought your help and intervention in the legal process rather than take the risk of losing on the merits at trial.”

Rockefeller writes that he regards the FTC “as the premier consumer-protection agency in the nation,” a view that I share. He concludes his letter to urging Issa “to reconsider your actions and to allow for the American legal system and the rule of law - not political theater - to resolve this case.”

Issa is no stranger to bullying, almost thuggish tactics. I think it’s unlikely he’ll do what’s right and cancel the hearing. It is refreshing to see Rockefeller stand up for the FTC. The agency needs all the friends in Congress in can get.