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DC Revolving Door: Ex-FCC Commissioner Is Now Head CTIA Lobbyist 170

Posted by timothy
from the but-they're-so-well-versed-in-it dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "Up until three years ago, Meredith Attwell Baker was an Obama-appointed FCC commissioner. Now she's the newly minted CEO of the CTIA, the nation's largest lobbying group for the mobile phone industry. How can we expect regulators to keep a careful watch over industries when high-paying jobs in those industries await them after retirement? One of the most damning sentences in that article: 'More than 80 percent of FCC commissioners since 1980 have gone on to work for companies or groups in the industries they used to regulate.'"
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DC Revolving Door: Ex-FCC Commissioner Is Now Head CTIA Lobbyist

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  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:39AM (#46833717)

    The current FCC Chairman was a paid lobbyist for the Telecommunications industry before he became the FCC chair....

    As long as our politicians are bought and paid for, things will never change for the better.

    I mean the recent issue with Verizon and the state of NJ, NJ let them off the hook for not building out the infrastructure promised in the early 90's by a mere technicality by considering heavily capped LTE as an alternative to wiring the entire state. Then stating that they would wire areas that do not have wireless service, only if 35 or more people request it.. except they know that wireless reaches every spot in NJ where there is no VZ service, so it is a cop out, they know, the PUC knows it, and how anyone in their right mind could possibly think that this is good for consumers. This only benefits the telecoms.

    This is what we have in stall for our FCC chairs of the future.. not exactly this scenario, but people that would vote in a similar vein under the pretense it is good for the consumer.

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      Crony Politics as usual.. Actually, worse than usual for DC, unless you are from Chicago, in which case it looks like the wind driven snow...

    • by yuhong (1378501)

      Seems like he left the CTIA in 2004. IMO, he should be at the bottom of the list, if at all.

  • Democracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by asmkm22 (1902712) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:42AM (#46833751)

    And this is one of the many reasons why the US really isn't a democracy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kwiqsilver (585008)

      The US isn't supposed to be a democracy, it's a republic.

      In a democracy, majorities can impose their will on minorities, no matter how stupid, or evil their ideas. In a republic, the constitution is supposed to limit the power of the government.

      Unfortunately though, this is exactly what a representative democracy turns into: as long as the corrupt politician can convince 51% of his buddies to vote for his boondoggle (usually by promising to vote for theirs in return), it passes.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        No more so than currently, and there are simply fixes for preventing such situations even in pure democracies (require 2/3 or more vote to pass basic laws, 85% or more to modify constitution, etc). A few years ago you could have made the claim that "well reps have more time to analyze the issues" but I think that myth has been pretty much debunked. Most congressman/woman don't actually read the legislation they are passing & can't even answer basic questions in regards to it. At bare minimum I think

        • by Agent0013 (828350)

          if 90% vote against it the sponsors of the bill get permanently ejected from federal government work.

          I like this idea. I would only add that the sponsors also get the guillotine. Otherwise someone else can try to adjust the wording of the law a little bit and keep trying to slip it through. We need zero tolerance for the people who abuse the constitution and pass illegal laws.

        • I've been a supporter of the super-majority requirement for a while (or better yet, the super-duper-majority: 80% or more). It's easy to get 80% of people (hopefully more like 99.999%) to agree murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, etc. are bad. It would be impossible to get 80% to agree to slavery, unjust wars, NSA spying, the Patriot [sic] Act, taxes for wealth redistribution (most of which in the US goes to the über rich banking and corporate crony crowd, not the poor), and other statist dreams.

          Another

      • by tomhath (637240)

        The US isn't supposed to be a democracy, it's a republic.

        Republic is a type of Democracy.

        • That's absolutely false. A democracy is a majority rules system. A republic is a system where the government is limited in the powers it can exercise.

          The founding fathers of the US knew the difference. Most of them despised the idea of democracy, because they knew it would devolve into corruption.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      Not sure what you mean by that. But compromises have to be made in any form of government, especially in a Democracy. Allowing people to move back and forth from government to private industry is one of the compromises needed to make both work reasonably well. Would it be this way in a perfect society? Perhaps, perhaps not. We'll never know because there will never be one.
    • by bobbied (2522392)

      And this is one of the many reasons why the US really isn't a democracy.

      Being nit picky... The USA is not and it's never been a democracy. We where founded as a constitutional representative republic, which is decidedly NOT a democracy.

      What are they teaching in school these days? We tried democracy, determined it didn't work very well for large groups. So the founders went with a representative republic instead. Kids...

  • by alen (225700) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:49AM (#46833821)

    if you don't want any conflict of interest. pay the agency heads $20 million a year and stipulate they are not allowed to work for any private entity for 5 years after they leave government

    • Hell, pay me 20 million and I will sign a contract that I won't work anymore ever! :)

    • by Sabriel (134364)

      No. These people are already socially disconnected from the public they are supposed to represent. Ludicrous wealth makes that kind of problem worse, not better.

  • No, I am not a big proponent of this action as it "smells" funny. That being said...

    Did anybody else notice she held the position from 2009-2011 in a two year appointment? She didn't jump right from the FCC to the CTIA.

    She hasn't been working for the FCC as a regulator in three years. My guess is her contract or appointment included a clause restricting her from working for the CTIA or other groups she regulated for at least 1-2 years.

    Naturally, the CTIA wants her as they hope she has the connections to

    • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @12:00PM (#46833935)

      You are correct, she did not go directly to the CTA..

      Even worse, she jumped to Comcast 3 months after pushing for the Comcast NBC merger. Bought and paid for by your tax dollars.

      This was the restriction placed on her (came from wikipedia, so take with a grain of salt.)

      "While Baker may immediately lobby Congress and supervise employees who directly lobby the FCC, to comply with President Barack Obama's ethics pledge, she may not personally lobby any executive branch political appointee (including the FCC) while Obama is in office. However after two years, she may lobby non-political appointees at the FCC. Additionally she may never personally lobby anyone on the Comcast/NBC merger agreement"

  • by zarmanto (884704) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:51AM (#46833831) Journal

    The conflict of interest is pretty unmistakable, here... but we have to keep in mind that even absent that conflict, this would still be the most obvious choice for both the former FCC commissioners and for the lobbying groups. The commissioners obviously have an interest in the field, and the lobbying groups would want to hire someone who knows more then a little bit about the inner workings of their "arch nemesis."

    I mean... sure, moves like this will always have that sort'a greasy slimy feel to them, no matter how you cut it. But where else are they going to go?

    (Plus, there's some pretty darned good scratch in going all turncoat!)

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:51AM (#46833833) Journal

    "Hope"

    "Change"

    And please don't ASSume that we live in some sort of binary world where criticizing Obama means I think Bush 2 was any less of a piece of crap. However, I don't recall Bush 2's election(s) being accompanied with the sort of priapic panegyrics about how "everything was going to be different" and the administration was going to be "lobbyist-free", either.

  • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:51AM (#46833835)

    Government employees pay a 100% surtax on any income over their previous government pay for 5 years after leaving government service. For Representatives it must move to 10 years. For Senators it's life.

    Problem solved.

    • by dublin (31215)

      You're not the first to suggest this - a surtax on earnings above the government salary is a *really* good way to deal with this.

      University of Tennessee law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds is one of the more outspoken proponents of this approach (he suggests a 50-75% surtax on earnings above the government official's salary for five years after leaving office.)

      http://www.usatoday.com/story/... [usatoday.com]

      http://pjmedia.com/instapundit... [pjmedia.com]

      Although it's just a small step in eliminating cronyism and corruption, it's a

  • Interest groups and lobbyists run the country. Voters enable it.
  • by jmd (14060) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:53AM (#46833851)

    Votes do not.

    Welcome to the new world order. The age of enlightenment seems to be over.

    • It depends on the vote.

      John Q. Public vote: not very valuable.
      US House of Representatives vote: Valuable.
      US Senate vote: Quite Valuable.
      Regulatory Commissioner vote: Extremely Valuable.
      Presidential Veto: Invaluable.

  • Money can't buy you love, but can and does buy influence.

  • Not unusual (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kwiqsilver (585008) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:53AM (#46833861)
    This isn't unusual, nor should it be unexpected. Regulatory agencies are there to provide advantages for the established companies over upstart competitors and their customers. The stories about working for the interests of the consumer are just what the politicians tell voters, as they take money from politically connected companies, to create bureaucracies that further the interests of those companies.
    It's how a fascist (a.k.a. mercantilist, cronyist) economy works.
  • Like the other article yesterday about net neutrality, this just goes to show people that in the end big company's like Verizon can just buy anything they want and make the regulators and politicians dance to their tune and it's the general public that gets the short end at every turn and the regulators who are supposed to protect the interests of the people are not doing their jobs.

  • Simple answer: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:59AM (#46833931) Homepage

    How can we expect regulators to keep a careful watch over industries when high-paying jobs in those industries await them after retirement?

    The post government employment surtax by libertarian Glenn Reynolds:

    SO OBAMA’S PEOPLE ARE TALKING TAX INCREASES AGAIN. Here’s my proposal: A 50% surtax on anything earned within five years after leaving the federal government, above whatever the federal salary was. Leave a $150K job at the White House, take a $1M job with Goldman, Sachs, pay a $425K surtax. Some House Republican should add this to a bill and watch the Dems react.

    50%, no deductions, no credits, just outright confiscation to ensure less profit from leveaging any potential leads from the government to win insider deals.

    • by Amtrak (2430376)

      I'd vote for that since I never plan on working for the feds. However, how would this work for someone who works as a "contractor". What about retired military personnel. What's keeping congress from writing themselves out of the law. What about income from investments (i.e. dividends or capital gains.) vs earned income? Do benefits count for gross income in this law?

      I feel like by the time congress is done "debating" such a law it will be toothless and full of pork. Why not just be blatant about this and l

      • What about retired military personnel.

        The Ex-General bridgade is a huge problem. They influence the military from contract positions with weapon's makers, go on the media and tout their stars, and generally bend the political process. They should not be excluded.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      50%, no deductions, no credits, just outright confiscation to ensure less profit from leveaging any potential leads from the government to win insider deals.

      Executives don't gets a salary, they get a "compensation package."

      Stuff like the company paying for a car, use of a private jet, free hotel rooms, an executive assistant, etc etc etc.
      And if you're good at negotiating, the gravy train doesn't have to end when you quit,
      as some Executives keep getting these perks while they're between jobs.

      So really, there's a lot more to the job than just a paycheck.

  • by sproketboy (608031) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @12:05PM (#46833983)

    Oh you mean DC.....

  • In general a person who makes contracting or regulatory decisions must wait a year after leaving government before working for a company related to their government work in the US. Other countries have different waiting periods (e.g. France is three years).

    That's not perfect, but I don't see anyone suggesting a better alternative. A permanent ban on working in the industry after government service is unrealistic; Ms. Baker is 45 years old and has spent her entire career in telecom, I doubt you could get any

  • People are told to hate corporations and give the government more power. That power gets co-opted by corporate interests to be used against the people.

    Will anyone ever learn that power should not be concentrated in government hands?

    • by Amtrak (2430376)
      Exactly it's a lot harder and more expensive to "bribe" 50 different regulators. It's why things like this should be left to the States. But business and Washington bureaucrats would hate that. However, while there are departments that could be decentralized such as Education, or maybe to lesser extent FCC (Radio travels a good distance and the Military has a want to regulate it.) there are other regulators that you can't really do that with. I mean can you imagine how pissed Tennessee would be if we broke
    • What?!?

      So you state that corporations are corrupt and will use their power against people but you still blame the government....wow...that's some pretty tortured logic.
  • by dirk (87083) <dirk@one.net> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @12:26PM (#46834173) Homepage

    I can easily see why this would cause problems, but the one thing no one seems to address is what is the alternative? If we want someone to head the regulatory body for telecommunications (for instance) we need someone who has a vast knowledge of the telecommunications field. That means pretty exclusively someone who has worked for years in telecommunications businesses. You can't pull someone from another field because they don't know anything about what they are meant to be regulating. When these people leave the government regulation jobs, they are obviously going to go back to the telecommunications field (with the other option being lobbying for the telecommunications field since they now have telecommunications experience and government experience).

    So what are our options? We can't ban them from going back and working in the field, since that is what their expertise is in no one would take the job. We can't the hiring to people not in the field, since that is just silly. We could try to limit hiring of industry insiders but that severely limits your hiring pool and potentially swings the pendulum too far the other way. The only thing I can think of that is reasonable and doable is to try and regulate the quid pro quo going on, but that is all but impossible. So what exactly is the fix?

    • "a vast knowledge of the telecommunications field."

      This is not true.

      So what are our options

      The option is that Congress starts passing laws like they used to. The problem this is a problem is that Congress has delegated almost all of it's rule making authority to the Executive, because it's too hard for them to function otherwise.

  • We keep voting for these politicians - BUT - the politicians who make it through the primary process are the only ones we are allowed to vote for, and they are already beholden to those special interests which facilitate their victory. 3rd parties are aggressively suppressed.

    Very interesting TED talk by Lawrence Lessig on the issue: "There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the [ted.com]

    • by PortHaven (242123)

      We don't vote for these people. Heck, half the times the exit polls are in total conflict with the results. Districts show no or less votes than people who actually cast their ballots.

      What we need is a national election website. Where every candidate basically has a page. Can discuss their views on specific issues. Post videos. Etc.

      And then we can elect the one we actually like. Instead of getting selected politicians.

  • If we want to get top-quality people for a job like FCC Commissioner, which doesn't last that long and doesn't pay well, but don't want them to take industry jobs when they leave, we need to pay them more. Pay the Commissioners $2 million a year each, plus $1 million per year for the ten years after they leave the FCC, but make a condition of taking the job that they can't take outside employment in the industry during that ten year period. The incremental cost to the budget would be trivial, and it would

  • The law would state that government employees with regulation powers are prohibited from working in the industry they regulated for a period of 10 years after they leave their government position. This would apply to commissioners as well as congressmen.

  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @04:46PM (#46836227)
    Instead having your radio go through FCC labs for Part 90 type acceptance, just say it's Part 90, pay the dues, and voila you are done. Maybe not as factious as this but it sure seems like that. Especially for some Part 15 devices which really cause havoc in radio interference and I wonder how they managed to get it on the market.

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