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article imageFCC chairman declines CPAC gun award for 'courage under fire'

By Karen Graham     Mar 2, 2018 in Politics
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai declined to accept a Kentucky handmade long gun from the National Rifle Association (NRA) that was presented to him at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Pai was the central figure in the FCC's efforts to repeal his agency’s net neutrality rules, which require Internet service providers to give all web traffic equal footing. He has been the subject of a considerable amount of backlash, including receiving death threats.
The NRA and American Conservative Union (ACU) announced the award when Pai appeared last week at the CPAC annual conference last week. NRA member Carolyn Meadows named Pai the Charlton Heston 'Courage Under Fire' Award recipient at CPAC for his efforts to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules.
"Ajit Pai, as you probably already know, saved the Internet," ACU Executive Director Dan Schneider told the audience when announcing the award. Pai "fought to preserve your free speech rights" by eliminating net neutrality rules approved during the Obama administration, Schneider said.
Pai did not decline the award at the time, and the long gun was not on stage during the presentation. Meadows said the gun would be displayed in the NRA's museum along with a plaque honoring Pai until he could accept the award. The award is named for Charlton Heston, the actor, who was also president of the NRA for a time.
Politico has received copies of letters Pai wrote to the NRA and ACU. In the letters, Pai writes: "As you know, once my staff became aware of what was happening, they asked backstage that the musket not be presented to me to ensure that this could be first discussed with and vetted by career ethics attorneys in the FCC’s Office of General Counsel."
"Therefore, upon their counsel, I must respectfully decline the award,” he continued. “I have also been advised by the FCC’s career ethics attorneys that I would not be able to accept the award upon my departure from government service.”
US President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National ...
US President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, on February 24, 2017
Walter Shaub, who was director of the US Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017 criticized Pai accepting the award, writing on his Twitter account, "Anyone care to explain to me why the FCC thinks that the ethics rules allow Ajit Pai to accept the gift of an expensive handmade gun from the NRA, an entity whose interests he can affect (and has affected) by the performance of his official duties? Am I missing something?"
Pai was originally scheduled to give a speech at the conference, but instead, participated in a panel discussion with his fellow Republican FCC commissioners, discussing the agency's work.
However, an ethics question arose when FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly called for the re-election of President Trump while on stage. This resulted in the advocacy group American Oversight requesting an investigation of O'Rielly, saying he violated a rule against "engaging in partisan political activity while on duty."
During a panel discussion, O'Rielly was asked how conservatives can prevent the "regulatory ping-pong" that happens at the FCC if the Democrats again take over the White House. He responded, "I think what we can do is make sure as conservatives that we elect good people to both the House, the Senate, and make sure that President Trump gets re-elected."
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