Published September 19, 2011
The billionaire backer of a wireless company accused of using White House connections to interfere with a Pentagon commander’s congressional testimony last week emphatically rejected that and other charges relating to the embattled firm on Monday.
In an exclusive interview with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, private equity titan Phil Falcone – the chief investor in LightSquared, a Virginia-based firm aiming to establish a new wireless broadband network – rejected as “absolutely false” allegations that LightSquared had obtained in advance the written testimony of Air Force Gen. William Shelton.
As head of Space Command, Shelton had told a House Armed Services subcommittee that the LightSquared network could interfere with critical GPS systems used by fighting men and women the world over. After last Thursday’s hearing, subcommittee chairman Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, told Fox News that Shelton had confided to lawmakers that he believed his testimony had been leaked to LightSquared, and that he had rebuffed requests to soften his testimony to benefit the company.
“No one,” Falcone answered, when Kelly asked if anyone at LightSquared had obtained an advance copy of Shelton’s testimony. “I didn't have it, nobody in the company had it. So I don't know where that came from. It's just people planting things.”
When asked why the general said the company had it, Falcone responded, “Well, the general, again, is wrong,:
On Friday, Turner told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that Shelton made his startling claims during a closed-door session of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services subcommittee.
“He did say that he believed his testimony had been with LightSquared themselves,” Turner said. “We did not press the general for him to finger-point, but he did say that he resisted the efforts to put the language in his testimony.”
LightSquared executives and the company’s political action committee have donated to both political parties, but the PAC tilted Democratic over the last two election cycles. Falcone said he is a registered Republican and has never met President Obama. In 2005, then-Sen. Obama invested close to $100,000 in Skyterra, the company that later changed its name to LightSquared.
As well, White House emails obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show that on the very day LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja donated more than $30,000 to the Democratic Party, a representative sought to arrange for Ahuja a meeting with the president’s top technology adviser, Aneesh Chopra.
“Hi Aneesh!” LightSquared representative Dave Kumar wrote to Chopra on Sept. 23, 2010. “I touched base with my client Sanjiv Ahuja and he expressed an interest in meeting with you. … He is going to be in DC next week for a fundraising dinner with the President.”
The White House has denied any improper conduct with respect to LightSquared and Shelton’s testimony.
LightSquared executives and the company’s lawyers say the firm has been targeted by a broad and powerful coalition of entrenched interests who falsely cite the potential for interference with GPS systems to conceal their true motive: to prevent LightSquared from revolutionizing the wireless industry, by enabling smaller carriers to compete on a national level.
“We have taken the step to fix any interference issue that the GPS or any of the agencies have come forward with, and have been concerned with,” Falcone told Kelly. “These fixes are technology issues. It's not a physics issue.”
Members of the Coalition to Save Our GPS, which includes such organizations as the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, say tests of the technology developed by LightSquared continue to show persistent problems. They also believe the company should subsidize billions in equipment upgrades and other expenses that current GPS users would face if the LightSquared network ultimately materializes.