Senators up the ante over spending on ICANN transition

Republican senators, including former Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, just upped the ante in their bid to stall or prevent the Obama administration’s plan to remove ultimate US Government oversight of ICANN.

In another letter to Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling they allege that the US Government broke the law when it gave a contract to the Berkman Center (sic) for the evaluation of the transition plan.

Cruz and several other Senators write: ‘We believe that NTIA has violated that prohibition by funding projects whose only conceivable purpose is to facilitate the transition . . . ‘

Federal law prevents NTIA spending money on the transition under a rider in the appropriation that funds the Department of Commerce and NTIA.

Strickling has become a not unfamiliar face at ICANN meetings; another meeting is due to take place in Helsinki next week.

It’s arguable that the routine travel expenses of NTIA employees to such meetings come out of general funds, and in pursuance of NTIA’s general oversight duties.

It’s much harder to argue that a sole-source contract, to an external organisation whose whole brief is to assess the transition proposal, is expenditure that’s unrelated to the transition . . .

The full letter is here and Cruz’s commentary can be found here.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this complaint. It probably doesn’t matter whether NTIA broke the law or not here.

What matters is, that if so, what Rafael (who is receiving up-to-date, and accurate briefings on the transition) will do about it, other than write aggrieved letters, no matter how eminent the signatories. So far, that’s not much. But of course, he’s been somewhat distracted by a different project until recently.

One thing I’ve learned about dealing with ICANN  senior staff over nearly 20 years, is that they have an unshakeable belief in their correctness of whatever decisions they are involved in, and simply motor on, irrespective of any expressed concerns.

It remains to be seen whether Assistant Secretary Strickling (who is due to leave office at the end of the Obama administration) takes a similar approach.

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