Which Republican for the FCC?

by on February 6, 2009 · 11 comments

Over at TVNewsday, Harry A. Jessell writes:

I don’t like the way the new FCC is shaping up. There’s something missing.

My concern has nothing to do with Julius Genachowski, whom the president has reportedly tapped for chairman….

What I’m having trouble with are the names popping up for the Republican seat….

All [the rumored candidates] work or used to work on Capitol Hill. They are basically experts on policymaking, crafting legislation and Washington politics, but not much else.

The seat is turning into a reward for loyalty and a test of whose boss has the most clout.

Bad idea.

As the professed champion of business, the Republicans should award the seat to a businessman or a businesswoman.

I’m talking about somebody who has actually done some hiring and firing, made a payroll in tough times, sweated a big sale, produced goods or services, acquired another company, got a loan to expand operations or survive a downturn and struggled to untangle and comply with federal regulations.

There’s a double standard here.

Ajit Pai, for example, who is one of the Republican candidates, is Deputy General Counsel of the FCC.  He served as Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Senior Counsel at the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, Deputy Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, an Honors Program trial attorney in the Telecommunications Task Force at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and a law clerk to Judge Martin L.C. Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. He graduated with honors from Harvard College and from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review.

Sounds an awful lot like the background of Julius Genachowski or, for that matter, President Obama.

Aside from Pai, each and every one of the Republican candidates is highly accomplished and is easily as qualified as any other recent FCC nominee.

As the title of his column, “Wanted: A Broadcaster for the FCC,” suggests, Jessell wants a special interest advocate to fill the vacant seat.

Who might that be?  Jessell doesn’t say.

The FCC is supposed to regulate and deregulate in the public interest, not in the interest of established commercial entities just because they have to hire and fire, make a payroll in tough times, sweat a big sale, produce goods or services, acquire another company, get a loan to expand operations or survive a downturn and struggle to untangle and comply with federal regulations.

In short, the purpose of the FCC is not to ensure the profitability of the entities it regulates, but to ensure that innovation can flourish.  Innovation leads to more competitors, new or better services and ultimately lower prices.  Sometimes established firms must be allowed to fail.

The problem with the FCC is that it has become a special interest playground.  It ought to be eliminated, of course.  But since that isn’t possible at the moment, we ought to insist on having commissioners who are experienced in communications policy, and, yes, who understand policymaking, crafting legislation and Washington politics.  They should be principled and diplomatic.  They should have the temperament to be able to compromise or to respectfully dissent, depending on the circumstances.  They should grasp, but not feel beholden to special interests.

If anything, Senate staffers are more likely to have acquired these skills, not less.

So I say, yes, perhaps we need a Senate staffer who has been schooled in the public interest, not an executive who is beholden to a special interest.

  • http://www.wbklaw.com Mike Sullivan

    Please. We have had an unending succession of Senate staffers and campaign guys as Commissioner. Yes, ex-Senate-staffers know how to compromise, when that is what their bosses want. They also know how to filibuster, so to speak. What they don't necessarily know is anything substantive about telecom.

    When was the last time there was an FCC Commissioner who had any knowledge of engineering or even had an engineering assistant? It was at least 20 years ago (engineering assistant, not Commissioner-engineer). I'd like to see some Commissioners who aren't just Hill people or party hacks; people with substantive knowledge and experience.

    I am heartened that Julius Genakowski has had some experience in the telecommunications and media industries; that qualifies him much more than his time as Reed Hundt's right-hand-man. I am also heartened by the fact that one of the names being bandied about for a Republican seat is that of David Gross, who not only has served in the State Department as our telecom Ambassador, but spent years in the telecom industry before that. The Commission should reflect many different perspectives. Just having lots of people with experience in “policymaking” and being “principled and democratic” isn't good enough. This is supposed to be an “expert” agency.

  • http://www.wbklaw.com Mike Sullivan

    Please. We have had an unending succession of Senate staffers and campaign guys as Commissioner. Yes, ex-Senate-staffers know how to compromise, when that is what their bosses want. They also know how to filibuster, so to speak. What they don't necessarily know is anything substantive about telecom.

    When was the last time there was an FCC Commissioner who had any knowledge of engineering or even had an engineering assistant? It was at least 20 years ago (engineering assistant, not Commissioner-engineer). I'd like to see some Commissioners who aren't just Hill people or party hacks; people with substantive knowledge and experience.

    I am heartened that Julius Genakowski has had some experience in the telecommunications and media industries; that qualifies him much more than his time as Reed Hundt's right-hand-man. I am also heartened by the fact that one of the names being bandied about for a Republican seat is that of David Gross, who not only has served in the State Department as our telecom Ambassador, but spent years in the telecom industry before that. The Commission should reflect many different perspectives. Just having lots of people with experience in “policymaking” and being “principled and democratic” isn't good enough. This is supposed to be an “expert” agency.

  • http://www.wbklaw.com Mike Sullivan

    Please. We have had an unending succession of Senate staffers and campaign guys as Commissioner. Yes, ex-Senate-staffers know how to compromise, when that is what their bosses want. They also know how to filibuster, so to speak. What they don't necessarily know is anything substantive about telecom.

    When was the last time there was an FCC Commissioner who had any knowledge of engineering or even had an engineering assistant? It was at least 20 years ago (engineering assistant, not Commissioner-engineer). I'd like to see some Commissioners who aren't just Hill people or party hacks; people with substantive knowledge and experience.

    I am heartened that Julius Genakowski has had some experience in the telecommunications and media industries; that qualifies him much more than his time as Reed Hundt's right-hand-man. I am also heartened by the fact that one of the names being bandied about for a Republican seat is that of David Gross, who not only has served in the State Department as our telecom Ambassador, but spent years in the telecom industry before that. The Commission should reflect many different perspectives. Just having lots of people with experience in “policymaking” and being “principled and democratic” isn't good enough. This is supposed to be an “expert” agency.

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