Democrat-launched probe finds 'turmoil' at FCC

— -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin has a "heavy-handed" management style that has created "distrust, suspicion and turmoil" among his fellow commissioners, a long-awaited congressional report has concluded.

The investigation, launched by House Democrats, cites no instance where the FCC chief, who is a Republican, broke any laws, rules or public policies.

Even so, the House Energy and Commerce Committee majority staff report said the FCC chief "manipulated, withheld or suppressed data, reports and information" in late 2007 when he tried to bring about tougher cable TV regulation.

Republicans refused to sign the report, saying it lacked substance.

FCC spokesman Rob Kenny, reached Tuesday, said the report failed to offer "important facts that would have put the appropriate context on the overwhelming majority" of the report's criticisms.

The cable TV industry isn't currently regulated by the FCC. Martin tried to change that last fall, igniting a war with Comcast, Time Warner and other big cable TV operators. The House investigation of Martin was launched at the height of that spat.

Martin has been an outspoken critic of cable TV rates, which have more than doubled since 1995 to an average of about $58 a month, according to the FCC. He's also taken the industry to task for failing to offer an à la carte programming option to consumers.

Gene Kimmelman, public policy director of Consumers' Union, says Martin has largely comported himself as many FCC chiefs through the years, which is to say, he sometimes upsets industry as well as other commissioners by taking unpopular stands.

In the report, Martin was criticized for spending too much money to make sure deaf consumers have equal access to phone relay services.

Martin, in a statement, said the report's conclusion was based on a "policy interpretation, and was not a violation of actual rules." He says he has no regrets about that, or his hard stand on cable.

"The Chairman makes no apologies for his commitment to serving deaf and disabled Americans and for fighting to lower exorbitantly high cable rates that consumers are forced to pay," the FCC said in a prepared statement.

Martin is expected to leave the agency shortly in anticipation of the changeover in the White House.