The NYTimes reports that the NYAG has subpoenaed more than a dozen telecommunications trade groups, lobbying contractors, and advocacy organizations in connection with the submission of millions of possibly fake comments submitted to the FCC in 2017 in connection with a decision on internet regulation.
The NYAG’s investigation dates back to mid-2017, according to this announcement. Because the fake comments used the identities of real people, the NYAG characterized these filings as a potential violation of state laws on identity theft.
In a statement reported by the Times, Attorney General Underwood said that the “F.C.C.’s public comment process was corrupted by millions of fake comments. The law protects New Yorkers from deception and the misuse of their identities. My office will get to the bottom of what happened and hold accountable those responsible for using stolen identities to distort public opinion on net neutrality.”
In addition to possible deception and identity theft issues, it’s common to have laws, like this federal law or this law in Washington state, against the making of a false statement to a public official. Other states, like Oregon and Alabama, have laws that specifically apply to false statements made to lawmakers and executive officials for the purpose of influencing legislation.
The NYAG action represents a dogged pursuit of accountability in what was potentially a massive undermining of a federal agency’s decision making process.