• On March 17, 2011, the House Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing to gather information on the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) stimulus spending under the ARRA. Witnesses included: Gregory Friedman, Inspector General of DOE; Steve Isakowitz, Chief Financial Officer of DOE; and Franklin Rusco, Director, Natural Resources and Environment of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Committee Chairman Cliff Sterns, R-Fla., stated in his opening remarks that “This Committee’s oversight responsibility requires that we hold the DOE accountable for measuring its Recovery Act spending in a way that we can evaluate whether or not it was cost effective, in terms of policy goals and just good fiduciary sense.” Mr. Isakowitz testified that “The Department has initiated numerous efforts to ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are protected. Many of these efforts have become government-wide best practices that we are working to extend to our base-funded activities. One positive result from the Recovery Act has been improved Departmental capacity to make sound decisions efficiently, keeping program and functional leaders aligned towards meeting common priorities and resolving issues in real time.” Mr. Rusco presented GAO’s study of DOE’s obligations and spending under ARRA, and the jobs funded under ARRA. For more information on this hearing, click here.
  • On March 16, 2011, the Senate Commerce Committee held its hearing on the state of online consumer privacy. Witnesses included the Jon D. Leibowitz, FTC Chairman, and Larry Strickling, Asst. Secretary for Communications and Information, NTIA. Committee Chairman John “Jay” Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., stated in his opening remarks that “Congress can no longer sit on the sidelines. There is an online privacy war going on, and without help, consumers will lose.” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., indicated that he plans to propose a “Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights” that would provide “a common code of conduct that respects the rights of both the people sharing their information and legitimate organizations collecting and using it on fair terms and conditions.” Chairman Leibowitz highlighted his agency’s conclusion that a “robust, effective Do Not Track system would ensure that consumers can opt out once, rather than having to exercise choices on a company-by-company or transaction-by-transaction basis.” Mr. Strickling noted that consumers “will benefit from legislation to establish a clearer set of rules for the road.” For further information, click here.
  • On March 14, 2011, the Senate Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet held a hearing titled “Promoting Investment and Protecting Commerce Online: Legitimate Sites v. Parasites, Part I”. Witnesses included Maria Pallante, Acting Register of Copyrights, US Copyright Office, and Frank Huntsberry, CEO of Paramount Pictures. Ms. Pallante testified that the “issues presented by parasites and so-called ‘rogue websites’ raise complex legal questions but also represent an opportunity for Congress to manage the relationship between technology and intellectual property.” She recommended that a “follow the money” approach be adopted to find bad actors, and that US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) be given broader enforcement and subpoena power. Mr. Huntsberry stated that online video piracy is “damaging the US balance of trade” and has become an “online shadow economy.” He stated that “it is incumbent on Congress to find ways to restrict the online shadow economy and to once again level the commercial playing field and secure [copyright] rights.” For more information, click here.