WASHINGTON, Jan. 23- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today asked the principal behind the LightSquared 4G wireless project to explain a questionable contact to Grassley’s office that intimated benefits for Grassley if he softened his inquiry of government approval of the project.
Since last April, Grassley has been reviewing the Federal Communications Commission’s approval of the LightSquared project and the concerns of interference with the Global Positioning System.
According to a press release issued from Grassley’s office today, the Senator wrote to Philip Falcone of Harbinger Capital Partners, expressing concern that two separate incidents implied a desire to have Grassley “pull punches” in his investigation. Grassley said he “won’t be a part of that.” One contact came in an email from Falcone to Grassley’s office, saying that since LightSquared is already in the political “arena,” it could be made a “win” for Grassley, LightSquared, and the consumer.
The second contact was from someone who intimated that he represented LightSquared in a call to Grassley’s staff. The individual, Todd Ruelle, said he “only gets only if this deal goes through” and hinted that if LightSquared were allowed to proceed, Grassley’s home state of Iowa could get a “call center.” Grassley’s office advised Ruelle not to contact the office further and called the Senate ethics committee regarding the contact.
In response to the inquiry, a spokesman for Harbinger Capital, Lew Phelps, said Ruelle never worked for Mr. Falcone, Harbinger or LightSqured as an employee or consultant.
“No one at Harbinger or LightSquared has had any discussions or negotiations with Mr. Ruelle with respect to approaching or contacting Senator Grassley’s office regarding an alleged quid pro quo, or a call center in Iowa, which in any event would be inconsistent with the LightSquared wholesale business model,” Phelps said. “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.”
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