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FCC Commissioner Cashes in at Your Expense

Tim Karr

 by Save the Internet

Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker will reportedly depart the agency in June to occupy a corner office at Comcast-NBC -- the company whose multi-billion mega-merger she approved just months ago.

In so doing she joins a long line of "public servants" who have spun government jobs into gold at the expense of the American people they're supposed to represent.

Many have found the FCC to be a particularly lucrative launching pad. Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell now earns millions as the top lobbyist for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group that lobbies for the industry he was tasked to regulate.

Commissioner Baker's move to Comcast comes less than four months after she voted to approve the cable giant's takeover of NBC Universal. As recently as March, she gave a speech lamenting that the agency's review of the Comcast-NBC deal "took too long."

"What we didn't know then was that she was in such a rush to start picking out the drapes in her new corner office," Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement after news of Baker's new job broke.

With behavior like this it's little wonder that American people are so nauseated by business as usual in Washington. Inside the Beltway, the complete capture of government by industry barely raises any eyebrows. Outside of Washington, people of every political stripe have expressed near unanimous contempt for a system of government that favors powerful corporations at the expense of the many.

A Pew Research Center aggregate poll finds public trust in government to have reached a 30-year low, dipping beneath 20 percent. With shameless moves like Baker's it's surprising that trust is that high.

The continuously revolving door at the FCC and across all DC agencies continues to erode any prospects for common-sense public policy... the kind that's supposed to promote the general welfare and not simply line the pockets of DC careerists.

Let's hope that her replacement will be someone who is not just greasing the skids for their next industry job. (Don't hold your breath).

Coincidentally, this news came on the same day that another massive corporation was working the halls of Capitol Hill for approval of its merger.

A Wednesday Senate subcommittee hearing on AT&T's proposed takeover of T-Mobile had CEO Randall Stephenson glad handing members of Congress and the FCC for approval of a deal many inside Washington see as inevitable despite a growing public outcry.

The outcry is well justified. As GigaOM's Stacey Higginbotham detailed, there is very good reason to believe that regulators are ill prepared to conceive of the impact the AT&T merger would have on everyday cellphone users. They're working from an old playbook, one where Beltway manipulators like AT&T's team of lobbyists know how to work the refs.

But DC isn't worried about doing right, right now. The head of the company that makes more political contributions than any other -- and spends tens of millions on lobbyists each year -- has graced our capital with his presence.

The only question on the minds of many is how to press a resume into Stephenson's hands before he wraps his visit and returns to AT&T headquarters.


Tim Karr

Tim Karr

Tim Carr is the Senior Director of Strategy and Communications for Free Press and Save the Internet. Karr oversees campaigns on public broadcasting and noncommercial media, fake news and propaganda, journalism in crisis, and the future of the Internet. Before joining Free Press, Tim served as executive director of MediaChannel.org and vice president of Globalvision New Media and the Globalvision News Network.

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