Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is under investigation for ties to the Sinclair Broadcasting Company, Democratic lawmakers said Thursday.
Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., requested the investigation on grounds that Pai and aides allegedly pushed for rule changes to facilitate Sinclair Broadcasting's attempt to acquire Tribune Media, USA Today reported.
"For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai's relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting," Pallone said, in a statement. "I am particularly concerned about reports that Chairman Pai may have coordinated with Sinclair to time a series of Commission actions to benefit the company. I am grateful to the FCC's Inspector General that he has decided to take up this important investigation."
In May, Sinclair Broadcasting acquired Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.
Before that purchase, Pai pushed for deregulatory moves, including the loosening of local ownership restrictions, that ended up benefiting Sinclair Broadcasting's purchase of the newspaper company.
Pallone said those rule changes -- followed by the nearly $4 billion deal -- concerned him, which prompted his push for an investigation.
But Pai said the FCC review of Sinclair's purchase was by the book and there's nothing new about his push for deregulation since he has long been an advocate of loosening restrictions on media companies' ability to consolidate and buy up competitors