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Thursday
May122011

Roundtable: FCC Commissioner Turned Lobbyist for Comcast

Lydia: It has just been announced that Meredith Attwell Baker is leaving the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to become a lobbyist for Comcast. Now, that statement alone makes me go, hmmm. But then add to it that this is just four months after she voted to approve the Comcast-NBC merger and my hmmm turns into, what the fudge?! Is this not blatant corruption? Am I missing something? How can this happen? On the face of it, I suppose there is no proof that Comcast offered her a job in exchange for approving its merger with NBC, but the whole situation leaves a rancid taste in my mouth. Rep. Darrell Issa (R - CA), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has raised concerns that there may be possible ethics violations. Possible?! I'm flabbergasted. There should be a full scale investigation. Is it possible to reverse FCC approvals? How can Comcast and other large corporations be held accountable for such reprehensible behavior? With our own regulators snuggled up in the pockets of big business it is no wonder most Americans have lost faith in our democracy.

Lucinda: In Meredith Attwell Baker’s role as “public servant,” she votes for a merger that gives Comcast control of broadcast networks, local networks, movie studios, AND the Internet and cable networks that distribute all of that content. That’s an obscene amount of media control and power that Comcast-NBC is wielding, which means they can hike up prices and squeeze smaller media outlets out of business.

Meredith Attwell Baker hasn’t done anything that others haven’t done before, but I think it’s the speed (four months!) with which she jumped from voting to approve the Comcast-NBC merger to being paid by them to lobby in Washington that shocked folks. Meredith has got some ovaries on her. We need people on the FCC who have worked in and know media, but being able to go from regulating these companies to getting paid by them in a matter of months just smacks of corruption. Can we get some regulation on the regulators?

Sheryl: Meredith Attwell Baker’s actions provide a perfect example of one of the things that I find most disturbing and disheartening about the state of our government. Being politically active starts to seem like a no-win situation because corporations have become so intertwined in our government and in the making of public policy; it will be extremely difficult to untangle this web of corruption.

As you mention Lucinda, Mrs. Attwell Baker, who is a Republican, is not doing anything that others haven’t done many, many times. In fact, she worked as a lobbyist before she started working for the federal government in 2004. Unfortunately, the revolving door, on behalf of corporate and monied interests, keeps spinning on both sides of the aisle. The influence of lobbyists is also evident in their  political contributions which seem to flow based on which party is seen as rising in power. That is why the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision is so appalling. The corporate and monied-interest lobbys already had undue influence within our government and our Supreme Court handed them even more.

Some regulation on the regulators would be good, but many are pointing to overturning the Citizens United case and campaign finance reform as necessary first steps in the effort to restore our democracy. But when we have a government/lobbyist revolving door and people being bought off as candidates and then once they are elected, how are we ever going to get to any of those things? I have tried to avoiding thinking about it; it just seems to be so much more daunting than other issues. Atwell Baker's actions are really just another reminder that things have to change and any change will have to come from the people.

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