By Timothy Carney
As Republican lawmakers begin to dig into the White House's cozy relationship with a startup wireless company and the wealthy Democratic donor who owns it, a new character has appeared on the story's edges: liberal superdonor, conservative bete noire and controversial investor George Soros.
Soros reportedly invested in the telecom company LightSquared through a hedge fund, and many of the nonprofits he finances have backed LightSquared in regulatory and policy disputes.
LightSquared wants to compete with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint to provide mobile broadband (for instance, email and Internet on your Blackberry or iPhone).
Harbinger Capital Partners, a hedge fund run by billionaire financier Philip Falcone, owns LightSquared, and deftly steered the company through some tricky regulatory waters (with would-be competitors AT&T and Verizon fighting him along the way) to get preliminary approval for its plan to start a high-speed broadband wireless network.
Today, LightSquared is scuffling with the global positioning satellite industry, which argues that the company's current plan would interfere with GPS signals. Air Force Gen. William Shelton, head of Space Command, testified to Congress this month that giving LightSquared the radio frequencies it is slated to get would interfere with the military's GPS needs.
Here's the potential scandal: Ahead of Shelton's testimony, White House officials nudged Shelton to go easy on LightSquared, according to Daily Beast reporter Eli Lake. Shelton reportedly said that someone (presumably in the administration) had leaked the first draft of his testimony to LightSquared -- which Falcone denies.
Another government official said the White House pushed him to downplay the GPS worries.
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