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Congress

Grassley: LightSquared Supporters Pressured Me

January 23, 2012

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, accused backers of LightSquared's proposed wireless network on Monday of seeking to pressure him into giving up an investigation into the company's plans.

Grassley said comments by Harbinger Capital's Philip Falcone, and another man who claimed to be representing LightSquared, could be interpreted as offering benefits in exchange for the senator's support. Here's the somewhat confusing letter to Falcone, who has helped finance LightSquared,

Grassley has been seeking documents from LightSquared and the Federal Communications Commission about the company's efforts to obtain approval for a nationwide wireless network. Tests show the network could interfere with global positioning systems.

The new accusations may not bode well for two FCC nominees, whose confirmations are being held up by Grassley over the LightSquared spat.

In an e-mail to a Grassley staffer, released by the congressional office, Falcone says he could help make the deal a "win" for Grassley politically. In a separate phone exchange, Todd Ruelle, who apparently works for a separate company, Fine Point Technologies, told a Senate staffer that a call center could be built in Iowa if the deal went through, according to Grassley's letter to Falcone.

"Taken together, these two statements implied an invitation to pull punches in my investigation. I won't be a part of that," Grassley wrote. He asked Falcone to confirm whether Ruelle was working for Harbinger or LightSquared, and if so, what his relationship with the companies is.

But Harbinger Capital spokesman Lew Phelps said the Ruelle "does not, nor has he ever worked for Mr. Falcone, Harbinger or LightSquared as an employee or a consultant," and was not speaking on behalf of the companies.

"If such conversations occurred, Mr. Ruelle was acting entirely on his own and without the knowledge, authority, or endorsement of Mr. Falcone, Harbinger or LightSquared," Phelps said in a statement. LightSquared referred requests for comment to Harbinger and a request sent to Fine Point Technologies was not immediately answered.

It's not the first time LightSquared has faced charges of political meddling. Last year congressional Republicans raised questions of inappropriate contact between the company's supporters and members of the Obama Administration. In the heat of the controversy In September, Falcone took to Fox News to argue that the process "shouldn't be a political issue."

The e-mails published by Grassley are available here, here, and here.

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