Any Kerry Supporters On The Line?

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The Inter-American Telecommunication Commission meets three times a year in various cities across the Americas to discuss such dry but important issues as telecommunications standards and spectrum regulations. But for this week's meeting in Guatemala City, politics has barged onto the agenda. At least four of the two dozen or so U.S. delegates selected for the meeting, sources tell TIME, have been bumped by the White House because they supported John Kerry's 2004 campaign.

The State Department has traditionally put together a list of industry representatives for these meetings, and anyone in the U.S. telecom industry who had the requisite expertise and wanted to go was generally given a slot, say past participants. Only after the start of Bush's second term did a political litmus test emerge, industry sources say.

The White House admits as much: "We wanted people who would represent the Administration positively, and--call us nutty--it seemed like those who wanted to kick this Administration out of town last November would have some difficulty doing that," says White House spokesman Trent Duffy. Those barred from the trip include employees of Qualcomm and Nokia, two of the largest telecom firms operating in the U.S., as well as Ibiquity, a digital-radio-technology company in Columbia, Md. One nixed participant, who has been to many of these telecom meetings and who wants to remain anonymous, gave just $250 to the Democratic Party. Says Nokia vice president Bill Plummer: "We do not view sending experts to international meetings on telecom issues to be a partisan matter. We would welcome clarification from the White House."