June 9, 2016, Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement in response to the “IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal Assessment Report” released today by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration:
“The Obama Administration’s Commerce Department has engaged in an evaluation of ICANN’s report on their suitability to take over Internet functions that are the property of the people of the United States. The problem is that, in doing so, the Obama Administration has clearly ignored the legal prohibition on expending funds to facilitate this Internet transition.
“NTIA has no authority to transition the IANA functions, let alone to review any such proposal. That is why Americans for Limited Government Foundation submitted a complaint to the Commerce Department Inspector General in regards to these clear violations to the Antideficiency Act that bars expenditures of funds for prohibited activities. NTIA administrator Lawrence Strickling has bound himself to the defund, saying in January 2015 that ‘The act does restrict NTIA from using appropriated dollars to relinquish our stewardship … with respect to Internet domain name system functions,’ but now instead he’s facilitating the transition for which there are no funds to consider.
“This clear slap in the face of Congress’ power of the purse transcends the important issue of whether the U.S. should divest their oversight over Internet governance and cuts to the heart of whether the power of the purse rests with Congress at all. As the author of the defund, Representative Sean Duffy, noted in a letter in January to ICANN, ‘The Commerce Department has no money to consider your proposal and I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that it never does.’ If anyone can speak to the legislative intent of the defund, it is Duffy, who wrote it.
“Speaker Ryan has made reasserting Congress’ Article I powers a major talking point of his first year leading the House of Representatives, now he needs to prove it. Rather than wait for the giveaway to occur when there is little recourse, Speaker Ryan should join Representative Sean Duffy in putting language in must pass legislation that explicitly prohibits the transfer, and directs the Administration to extend the ICANN contract for two more years.
“This is no longer just about the foolhardy Obama plan to remove the U.S. from the role of protector of the Internet, and now is a plain Constitutional issue. If Congress doesn’t stand up for their own power of the purse, then they might as well be disbanded to save the public treasury.”
- Section 539(a), Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2029/text: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to relinquish the responsibility of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration … with respect to Internet domain name system functions, including responsibility with respect to the authoritative root zone file and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions.”
- The Antideficiency Act at 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(A) states that the federal government cannot, “make or authorize an expenditure or obligation exceeding an amount available in an appropriation fund for the expenditure or obligation.” An agency official violates the Antideficiency Act when they expend appropriated funds in violation of prohibitions in the appropriations act, “as the agency’s appropriations were not available for these prohibited purposes.” Federal officials who “knowingly and willfully” violate this prohibition commit a criminal offense and are subject to punishment of a fine of not more than $5,000 and a maximum jail term of two years.
- Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) letter to ICANN then-CEO Fadi Chehade, Jan. 13, 2016 at https://getliberty.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/16.01.13-ICANN-Transfer-Letter-to-Fadi-Chehad%C3%A9.pdf : “The Commerce Department has no money to consider your proposal and I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that it never does.”
- Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling, State of the Net Conference, Jan. 27, 2015 at https://www.ntia.doc.gov/speechtestimony/2015/remarks-assistant-secretary-strickling-state-net-conference-1272015 : “The act does restrict NTIA from using appropriated dollars to relinquish our stewardship during fiscal year 2015 with respect to Internet domain name system functions. We take that seriously. Accordingly, we will not use appropriated funds to terminate the IANA functions contract with ICANN prior to the contract’s current expiration date of September 30, 2015. Nor will we use appropriated dollars to amend the cooperative agreement with Verisign to eliminate NTIA’s role in approving changes to the authoritative root zone file prior to September 30. On these points, there is no ambiguity.”
- Americans for Limited Government Foundation complaint to Commerce Department Inspector General, Feb. 1, 2016 at https://getliberty.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/NPM-Complaint-to-DOC-IG-Re-NTIA-Antideficiency-Act_02.01.16.pdf: “Despite the explicit prohibition, the NTIA is clearly engaged in activities that are designed to lead to the relinquishment of its responsibilities regarding Internet domain name system functions, including responsibility with respect to the authoritative root zone fine and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions. The NTIA personnel have traveled to numerous conferences on internet governance and speeches from NTIA personnel clearly indicate that they are moving ahead as if Congress had not acted to prohibit their very actions.”
- “Why is NTIA still implementing Internet giveaway in the face of an explicit Congressional prohibition?” by Robert Romano, March 25, 2016 at http://netrightdaily.com/2016/03/ntia-still-implementing-internet-giveaway-face-explicit-congressional-prohibition/
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