FCC Nominees On The Way - InformationWeek

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FCC Nominees On The Way

Analysts at Legg Mason see Bush aides, Southern pols as potential FCC nominees, with announcements on the way soon -- along with a possible confirmation struggle.

Telecom analysts at research firm Legg Mason said in a report today that the Bush administration is close to naming two nominees to the Federal Communications Commission, a move toward restoring the Republican voting majority on the FCC.

The Legg Mason report named current Bush aides Michael Meece and Richard Russell as potential FCC nominees, along with Tennessee state regulator Deborah Taylor Tate and Suzanne Haik Terrell, who ran for a Senate seat in Louisiana in 2002. While the report said "other names are still mentioned as possibilities," it expects two of the four aforementioned to be presented as nominees, perhaps as early as this week.

The nominations are necessary to re-establish the GOP majority on the five-member FCC commissioner panel, which has had one seat vacant since the resignation of former FCC chairman Michael Powell in March. Current FCC chair Kevin Martin, who was named by President Bush to succeed Powell, has been hamstrung in his policymaking by not having a voting majority in the FCC. The other Republican commissioner, Kathleen Abernathy, is expected to step down as soon as a replacement is named, hence the need for two new GOP nominees.

According to the Legg Mason report, Meece (currently a special assistant to the president and deputy director in the White House's public liason office) has served as a staffer with the Commerce Department, where he dealt with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration; he also worked for George Bush when Bush was governor of Texas, the report said.

Russell, a senior director of technology at the White House, has had favorable relations with the large Bell operating companies, according to the Legg Mason report, which would put him in favor with FCC chairman Martin's stated policy direction of greater telecom deregulation. Tate, according to the report, has held a number of telecom-regulatory positions and also has the backing of Senate majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

The White House has been largely silent on FCC nominations, following the withdrawal of two potential nominees earlier this year, both due to personal reasons. While Senate confirmations are a dicey proposition for the White House these days, the Legg Mason report expects the administration to smooth its FCC appointments by bundling them with a Democratic nomination, most likely the re-confirmation of current commissioner Michael Copps. Confirmation proceedings, however, are not expected to take place until September at the earliest, after Congress' August recess.

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