September 19, 2020

Media Decoder: F.C.C. Commissioner Defends Taking Comcast Job

WASHINGTON – A Federal Communications Commissioner who announced earlier this week that she was leaving the agency to join the lobbying operations of Comcast defended her actions on Friday, saying she had no contact with Comcast about potential employment while the company’s merger with NBC Universal was pending before the Commission earlier this year.

Meredith Attwell BakerChip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesMeredith Attwell Baker

The announcement on Wednesday by Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican who was appointed to the F.C.C. by President Obama two years ago, that she would join Comcast drew objections from groups that opposed the company’s merger with NBC Universal over potential conflicts of interest. The F.C.C. approved the merger in January on a 4-1 vote.

In a statement, Ms. Baker said that “until late this spring,” she had intended to seek re-nomination as an F.C.C. commissioner.

“Not once in my entire tenure as a Commissioner had anyone at Comcast or NBC Universal approached me about potential employment,” she said. “When this opportunity became available in mid-April, I made a personal decision that I wanted to give it serious consideration.”

She said that once she was approached about a job, she sought advice from the General Counsel of the F.C.C. On April 18, she said, she recused herself “from any matters involving Comcast or NBC Universal.” The merger had been approved three months earlier.

“I have not only complied with the legal and ethical laws, but I also have gone further,” she said. “I have not participated or voted any item, not just those related to Comcast or NBC Universal, since entering discussions about an offer of potential employment. Because of this, I plan to depart the Commission as soon as I am able to ensure an orderly wind-down of my office.”

In her new position as head of governmental affairs for NBC Universal, Ms. Baker faces significant restrictions in her ability to lobby F.C.C. officials due in part to an Obama administration ethics pledge that she signed upon taking office. She will not be allowed to lobby anyone at the F.C.C. for two years after her departure, and will be barred from lobbying other political appointees at the F.C.C., including other commissioners, for the remainder of the Obama administration, including a second term if the president is re-elected.

She also faces a lifetime ban on lobbying any executive branch agency, including the F.C.C., on the agreement that Comcast made with the commission as a condition of its approval of the merger with NBC Universal. She will be allowed to lobby members of Congress immediately, however.

“I will of course comply with all government ethics and Obama pledge restrictions going forward,” she said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=cdea887a35acd0374178c20495657554

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