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E&C Republican Leaders Demand Briefing with TikTok About the Exploitation of Kids on the Platform

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) sent a letter to TikTok this week following reports over how the company has failed to address the sexual exploitation of kids on its platform. Excerpts and highlights from the  exclusive coverage  by Forbes: “‘TikTok has been incapable of rooting out the spate of TikTok accounts that are trading illegal child sexual content,’ four House lawmakers wrote Wednesday to TikTok’s chief, citing a November Forbes investigation that revealed how illicit private handles on the platform are hiding child abuse material in plain sight—posted using a setting that makes it visible only to the person logged in. “‘Equally troubling are the livestreams your company hosts that allow adult TikTok users to monetarily persuade children to perform sexually suggestive acts,’ the letter continued, citing a separate Forbes investigation, from April, into how adults use TikTok Live to exploit underage girls—by paying them to engage in provocative, potentially illegal behavior. “‘Considering that about half of all U.S. children use TikTok every day, our concerns enumerated above are paramount. … Therefore, we ask you [to] provide the Committee with a briefing as soon as possible, but no later than December 21,’ the memo concluded. It was led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the top Republican on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee who, along with her counterpart on House Oversight, opened an investigation into TikTok in July over China’s ability to access U.S. user data. Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Bob Latta of Ohio also signed onto the letter fired off Wednesday and shared exclusively with Forbes.” CLICK HERE  to read the full Forbes story. CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to TikTok.



Nov 22, 2022
Big Tech

Rodgers, Comer Press TikTok on Data Sharing Practices with Communist China

Details TikTok Provided in a Committee Staff Briefing Appear to be Untrue or Misleading   Washington, D.C.  — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY) are raising concerns TikTok provided misleading or false information to the committees about its data sharing and privacy practices with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In a letter to Shou Zi Chew, Chief Executive Officer of TikTok, the Republican lawmakers renew their request for all information about TikTok’s organizational structure and data sharing practices and also notify the social media company to preserve all e-mail, electronic records, and communications.   “On July 14, 2022, we wrote to you requesting documents and information regarding TikTok’s organizational structure and its data sharing and privacy practices relating to China. On July 28, 2022, you responded and on September 7, 2022, your staff provided a bipartisan briefing. However, we still have unanswered questions and you failed to provide responsive documents requested by the Committee. Additionally, some of the information TikTok provided during the staff briefing appears to be untrue or misleading, including that TikTok does not track U.S. user locations,”  wrote the Republican lawmakers.  “The information being withheld is especially relevant considering recent  New York Times  reporting suggesting TikTok and the Biden Administration may be close to an agreement to allow TikTok to remain operational in the U.S. without any major changes to its corporate structure.”  “According to reports, the Biden Administration and TikTok have been negotiating a deal to allow TikTok to remain in operation in the United States. The two sides reportedly came to terms on the foundation of an agreement that includes changes to TikTok’s data security and governance without requiring China-based ByteDance to relinquish its authority over the social media app. Reports indicate TikTok is actively imbedding trackers across the internet to gather Americans’ search data and using the app to track specific location data of designated targets.    “It appears that during the September 7, 2022, briefing by TikTok, the company shared potentially false or misleading information with bipartisan Committee staff. During the briefing, TikTok told staff that: (1) TikTok does not track users’ internet data while not using the application; and (2) that China-based employees do not have access to U.S. users’ location specific data. Both claims appear to be misleading at best, and at worst, false,”  continued the Republican lawmakers.  “It is unclear if this plan included tracking U.S. government officials, journalists, or other public figures. If true, these reports are deeply concerning and provide significant evidence that TikTok may have made misleading statements during its briefing with bipartisan Committee staff.”   Read the letter to TikTok CEO Chew  HERE .



Oct 18, 2022
Letter

Top Energy & Commerce, Financial Services Republicans Seek Answers Regarding PayPal’s Anti-Free Speech Policy

Washington, D.C. —  Today, House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, Patrick McHenry (R-NC), along with Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Tom Emmer (R-MN), the top Republicans on each Committees’ Oversight Subcommittees, sent a  letter  to PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman. The Republican Leaders are seeking answers regarding the recently published, and later removed, changes to PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy that would stifle free speech.  Read the letter to PayPal  here  or below:  “Dear Mr. Schulman:  “Thank you for the briefing provided to Minority staff of the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and Financial Services (the Committees) on October 11, 2022. As a follow-up to the briefing, we write to request more information on the changes made to PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). On October 8, 2022, PayPal updated its AUP to prohibit users from transactions that ‘involve the sending, posting or publication of any messages, content, or materials’ that are objectionable as determined by ‘PayPal’s sole discretion.’ A fine of $2,500 would be imposed on objectionable violations, including transactions that promote misinformation, or depict or promote criminal activity. Later that day, a PayPal spokesperson stated that the updated user agreement ‘went out in error’ and ‘included incorrect information.’ A copy of the since removed AUP is attached.  “As a leading financial technology company, it is concerning that a user agreement that contemplates the restriction of free speech was uploaded and disseminated to PayPal users – even if in error. We understand your company is currently investigating this matter. Upon the conclusion of your investigation, we request that you provide a briefing for the Committees as soon as practicable. In addition, to assist the Committees in better understanding PayPal’s processes for changing its AUP, please provide written answers to the following questions:  Where and with whom did the text of the October 8, 2022 AUP originate?  What is PayPal’s approval process for changes made to the AUP? Are there PayPal guidelines that document this process? If so, please share the guidelines related to the AUP. Who is authorized to make the changes?  Did the text that was updated October 8, 2022 go through the typical approval process?  Were the changes made to the AUP on October 8, 2022 ever contemplated within PayPal?  How and at what frequency is the AUP updated?  Were any entities affected by the updated AUP issued October 8, 2022? If so, please list these entities.  What are your internal control policies for making changes to PayPal’s AUP?  What is the notice requirement given to PayPal customers for an updated AUP?  Is there any indication an external party updated the AUP? If not, how do you know?  Are third-party contractors held to same internal protocols and standards as PayPal employees?  With respect to violations of the AUP, is a fined individual notified with specificity?  Is there an appeals process for violations of the AUP? If so, what is it?  In the briefing you provided to the committees you indicated that the company was handling the investigation internally. Can you please provide the process for that investigation?  What is the timeline of your investigation?  Have any PayPal employees met with the Executive Branch regarding disinformation initiatives? If so, please name the employees, their affiliations, and the dates of the meetings.  “Please provide your response as soon as possible, but no later than Thursday, October 27, 2022.” 



McMorris Rodgers, Wicker Call for Streamlined Permitting Process for BEAD Program

Washington, D.C. –  House Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter to National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator Alan Davidson urging NTIA to address burdensome permitting processes and other regulatory red tape that may impede the success of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program that was created under the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act.   “With inflation already raising costs, we cannot afford to waste time and resources on needless bureaucracy when we should be building networks,”  the Members wrote.  “Without action, we worry that deployments will take longer and be more expensive, leaving more Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide.”   To prevent slow deployment and the determent of investment, the Members urged the agency to require eligible states and territories to work with their local governments on streamlining the permitting process to expedite and reduce barriers. They praised the BEAD’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) that requires states to identify steps to “reduce costs and barriers to deployment, promote the use of existing infrastructure, promote and adopt dig-once policies, streamlined permitting processes and cost-effective access to poles, conduits, easements, and rights of way.” However, the Members called on the NTIA not only to identify and encourage streamlined permitting, but also to require states to enact these streamlined policies and set a high bar for when streamlining is not appropriate.  Read the letter  here  or below.   “Dear Assistant Secretary Davidson: “The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program presents a historic opportunity to close the digital divide. Under this program, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will award $42.45 billion to eligible states and territories for broadband deployment. As NTIA begins working with these entities, we urge the agency to require states and territories to work with their local governments to streamline permitting processes to expedite and reduce barriers to deployment. “As you know, broadband providers must obtain permits to access the poles, rights-of-way, and appropriate infrastructure needed for deployment. Burdensome and costly permitting requirements, lengthy review timelines, insufficient staff to review and process permitting applications, and other regulatory red tape can drastically delay and even discourage deployment, which may foreclose access to affordable broadband services. Many of these barriers are established by local governments. With inflation already raising costs, we cannot afford to waste time and resources that should be spent on building networks on needless bureaucracy. Without action, we worry that deployments will take longer and be more expensive, leaving more Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide. “We are encouraged that BEAD’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) asks states to identify steps to “reduce costs and barriers to deployment, promote the use of existing infrastructure, promote and adopt dig-once policies, streamlined permitting processes and cost-effective access to poles, conduits, easements, and rights of way.” Likewise, the NOFO correctly encourages states and territories, and their subdivisions, to “remove time and cost barriers associated with BEAD projects, including by expediting permitting timelines and waiving fees where applicable, where doing so does not undermine other critical policy goals.” Merely encouraging and promoting these actions, however, is not enough. As NTIA reviews state plans, it should, consistent with its authority to “establish local coordination requirements,” require states and territories to work with local governments to adopt streamlining policies that reduce the burdens associated with obtaining permits. This will ensure broadband projects are carried out in a timely manner, consistent with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. NTIA should also set a high bar for the “other critical policy goals” that states and localities can use to justify burdensome permitting regulations so that the exception does not become the rule. “This is an opportunity for our country to close the digital divide, but doing so will require cooperation from state and local governments. Removing unnecessary and costly barriers to deployment is key to the success of the BEAD program. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.”



Sep 26, 2022
Big Tech

E&C Republican Leaders Demand Big Tech Does More to Stop Illegal Fentanyl Sales on their Platforms

Washington, D.C. —  House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), along with Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA) sent letters to TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and the U.S. Department of Justice on doing more to crack down on illegal fentanyl sales and prevent criminals from exploiting these platforms to sell this deadly poison. Excerpts and highlights from the letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew:   “We write with significant concerns regarding the use of TikTok by drug dealers to sell illicit and deadly substances, especially to children and minors.  We have read numerous reports and heard personal stories from parents who have tragically lost their children to fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances from pills purchased from drug dealers on TikTok. The loss of these young lives shows not enough is being done to crack down on this illegal activity and prevent criminals from exploiting your platform to sell this deadly poison.     “Our country’s communities and families are facing an unprecedented crisis due to the increasingly widespread presence of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances.  In 2021, nearly 108,000 people died of drug overdoses; 71,000 of which were from fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances. Between FY2020 and FY2021, more than 10,000 pounds of illicit fentanyl were seized at our southern border, enough to kill every American seven times over. Law enforcement in communities across the country are seizing record amounts of illicit fentanyl pills, including a case earlier this summer where two Washington State men were arrested in California with 1 million pills containing fentanyl.    “The widespread availability and sale of these illicit pills containing fentanyl has led to record levels of overdose deaths. Every overdose is a tragedy and more must be done to facilitate access to treatment for those suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD).  However, many of these overdose deaths are unrelated to SUDs and have occurred in individuals taking a single pill they thought was prescription medication but was instead counterfeit and laced with fentanyl.  According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), these fake pills are often manufactured to resemble ‘real prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®).’  “Tragically, in these instances, traditional methods to combat opioid addiction and overdoses, such as SUD treatment or distribution of fentanyl test strips, are not effective.  More must be done to combat this epidemic of tragic overdoses, and TikTok must do more to combat the illegal activity on its platform. A consistent theme of this crisis is the purchasing of pills believed to be something else by teenagers and youth using TikTok’s platform. TikTok must do more to combat the use of its platform for illegal activity, especially drug dealers peddling this dangerous poison.”   CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to TikTok. CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to Snapchat. CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to Instagram.  CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to the U.S. Department of Justice.



Sep 13, 2022
Big Tech

E&C Republican Leaders Demand White House Share their Big Tech Censorship Correspondences

Washington, D.C. — President Biden and his administration continue to collude with Big Tech companies to shut down speech online simply because it doesn’t fit into their shared liberal agenda. Now, thanks to recent efforts by Attorneys General from Missouri and Louisiana, the administration has revealed some information about the direct relationship between high-ranking White House officials and social media companies. The information revealed shows how quick Big Tech is to censor Americans to appease their Democrat allies in the White House. The White House has admitted to flagging content for these companies to censor and went so far as to arrange regular meetings with Big Tech companies to brainstorm who they should silence next. These efforts are unconstitutional and an affront to the First Amendment. Energy and Commerce Republicans want to ensure the White House is completely transparent with Americans about how they and Big Tech are actively working to silence people online. That is why House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) today urged President Biden to preserve and share any records of the administration’s efforts to collude with Big Tech to censor Americans online.   Excerpts and highlights from the letter: “Administration officials have previously described conservative users as their political enemies, and we have previously expressed our concern that the administration’s recent actions could lead private companies to censor conservatives due to increased White House pressure.” […] “We write to express our continued concerns with the behavior of your administration and federal agencies, and to request documents and information regarding these reports.” […] “Twitter employees took several meetings from top Biden administration officials regarding speech by a conservative user of their platform. This information suggests that a specific conservative individual was targeted by White House officials, Twitter employees were aware of pressure from the White House official, and the censorship of the individual followed discussions between the White House official and Twitter.” […] “These facts raise serious questions about the pressure your administration and executive agencies are putting on companies to increase censorship and utilize these companies to censor speech that you are prohibited from restricting under the First Amendment.” CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to President Biden. CLICK HERE  to read the New York Post’s exclusive coverage of the letter.



Aug 10, 2022
Health

E&C Bipartisan Leaders Request Briefings to Address Ongoing Efforts to Strengthen U.S. Government Network Security

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Subcommittee Leaders sent letters to the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency requesting briefings to address concerns about how the U.S. government is identifying and mitigating potential compromises to its network security.  Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Subcommittee Chairwoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA), Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Energy Subcommittee Republican Leader Fred Upton (R-MI), Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush (D-IL), Environment and Climate Change Republican Leader David McKinley (R-WV), Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY), Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) also joined in sending the letters to the federal agencies.  Excerpts and highlights from the letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm:  “Secretary Granholm:   “We write to request a briefing from your department related to the recent open-source software vulnerability—Apache Log4j. The ubiquitous nature of this vulnerability and the hundreds of thousands of known exploits since its disclosure raise concerns about how the U.S. government is identifying and mitigating potential compromises to its network security.”   […]   “On December 11, 2021, CISA Director Jen Easterly stated that ‘this vulnerability, which is being widely exploited by a growing set of threat actors, presents an urgent challenge to network defenders given its broad use.’ She later added, ‘[t]o be clear, this vulnerability poses a severe risk. We will only minimize potential impacts through collaborative efforts between government and the private sector.’”   […]   “Over the past several years, the Committee has done extensive work on cyber threats, including hearings and investigations examining the information-security programs and controls over key computer systems and networks at multiple agencies under the Committee’s jurisdiction.  Because the Log4j vulnerability is widespread and can affect enterprise applications, embedded systems, and their sub-components, the Committee is seeking to gain a comprehensive understanding of the scope of the vulnerability and actions being taken to mitigate its effects. The risk to federal network security is especially concerning because nation-state threat actors have attempted to exploit this Log4j vulnerability.   “Accordingly, we request a staff briefing to discuss your department’s response to the Log4j vulnerability by August 10, 2022, including the following questions:  When did your department first learn of the Log4j vulnerability?  When did your department first learn of the Log4j vulnerability?  What specific actions has your department taken in response to CISA’s guidance in December 2021 and subsequent directive on April 8, 2022, regarding the Log4j vulnerability?   What tools does your department employ to detect all instances of the Log4j vulnerability on your networks? What is your department’s schedule for identifying the Log4j vulnerability?  Does your department employ software that utilizes Apache Log4j? If so, how many software products employed by the department include the Log4j vulnerability?   Has your department been impacted by a compromise or exploitation of the Log4j vulnerability? If so, when was your department first compromised, when did you detect the compromise, what was the extent of the compromise, and how did the department address the compromise?   What incident alert thresholds does your department have for potential compromises generally, and what are your requirements for escalating and reporting anomalies?  Does your department have a specific plan to identify and remediate, on an ongoing basis, software that it uses to ensure the department is not currently using software vulnerable to a cyber threat?”  CLICK HERE to read the letter to the Department of Commerce.   CLICK HERE to read the letter to the Department of Energy.   CLICK HERE to read the letter to the Department of Health and Human Services.   CLICK HERE to read the letter to the Environmental Protection Agency.   CLICK HERE to read the letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. 



Aug 8, 2022
Health

E&C Republican Leaders Demand Answers for Biased “Fact Checking” Used by Big Tech to Censor Speech

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and other Republican leaders on the Committee are demanding transparency from the Poynter Institute, the parent company of PolitiFact, for its clear biased and politically motivated decisions that help Big Tech censor Americans on their platforms.  As reported exclusively by Breitbart :  “House Republicans are demanding answers from The Poynter Institute, one of the nation’s most impactful ‘fact-checkers,’ over President Joe Biden’s definition of a ‘recession,’ according to a letter exclusively obtained by Breitbart News.  […]  “In a letter to PolitiFact’s parent company Poynter Institute, House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee, led by ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), demanded answers about how the company conducts its fact-checking and if it has colluded with the Biden administration.   […]  “The letter also pointed to reports earlier in the year that Biden’s administration was using federal funds to buy crackpipes for ‘safe smoking kits,’ being labeled false by these fact-checkers, despite it being proven true.  “‘More recently, PolitiFact incorrectly labeled third-party content that challenges the Biden administration’s definition of a recession as ‘false information,’ the letter said.  “McMorris Rodgers even noted that former President Bill Clinton (D) defined a recession by the traditional two consecutive quarters definition.  […]   “Our country is founded on the battle of ideas and having a robust discussion about the state of our nation,’ the letter said. ‘Holding our government accountable through fact-based journalism, including by questioning claims from the White House, is foundational to our democracy.’  “Not only does this seem to violate Poynter’s core principles, but it creates an echo chamber of misleading information to participants in active debate, the opposite of Poynter’s and fact checkers’ stated purpose.”  CLICK HERE to read the full Breitbart exclusive.  In the letter, Republican leaders ask Poynter Institute President Neil Brown:   Who develops the standards that Poynter uses to certify its fact-checkers?  What process does Poynter use to certify its fact-checkers?  Has Poynter or any of its certified fact checkers communicated with any officials in the Biden administration regarding the definition of a recession? Has Poynter provided guidance to its fact checkers regarding statements by Biden administration officials on the definition of a recession?  How does Poynter define misinformation, and does Poynter enforce its fact-checkers that moderate misinformation to ensure the same definition is used by each fact-checker certified by Poynter?  How does Poynter conduct quality control for its certification of fact-checkers to ensure Poynter-certified fact checkers uphold the Poynter code of principles?  How does Poynter ensure impartiality when assessing the accuracy and non-partisanship of PolitiFact, given the financial interest Poynter has in PolitiFact?  If a Poynter-certified fact-checker is determined to be flagging content inaccurately, is there a process that a user can challenge their accreditation by Poynter?  Has Poynter or any of its certified fact checkers communicated with Big Tech platforms regarding the definition of a recession? Has Poynter provided any guidance to Big Tech Platforms regarding the definition of a recession?  CLICK HERE to read the letter to Poynter Institute President Brown.  CLICK HERE to read Leader Rodgers recent Op Ed with Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon and members of the House Republican Big Tech Task Force on how to hold Big Tech accountable for censoring Americans. 



Jul 18, 2022
Press Release

House E&C Republican Leaders Urge Biden to Nominate an FCC Inspector General

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Communications, Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) are urging President Biden to nominate an Inspector General for the Federal Communications Commission to help ensure that the unprecedented funding made available to the FCC under the Biden administration does not lead to waste, fraud, and abuse. President Biden has not nominated a candidate for this position as required by the RAY BAUM’S Act, which was enacted in 2018.  Read the full letter below or CLICK HERE .   “Dear President Biden:   “We write to urge you to prioritize the nomination of a highly qualified candidate to fill the Inspector General (IG) vacancy at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).   “On March 23, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed RAY BAUM’S Act (Division P of P.L. 115-141) into law, which established the FCC’s IG as a Presidentially appointed position requiring the advice and consent of the United States Senate. Since enactment, this position has been vacant. While the law provides that the existing IG may continue to perform these functions until a nominee is confirmed by the Senate, it has been over a year and a half since you took office without nominating a candidate.  “Under your leadership, the FCC’s IG issued an advisory about fraud and abuse in an FCC program. Given the unprecedented funding made available to the FCC in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the increased potential for waste, fraud, and abuse, we ask that you expedite the nomination of a candidate to serve as the FCC’s IG.   “Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.”