12.18.2006 08:00 AM
Democrats pressure McDowell not to vote on merger

Congressional pressure is being put on Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell not to vote on the massive merger of AT&T and BellSouth.

Rep. John Dingell, (D-MI), who will head the Energy and Commerce Committee next year, and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), the new chairman of that panel’s Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, have asked McDowell to abstain from voting on the matter.

This comes after Sam Feder, the FCC’s general counsel, approved McDowell’s participation.

McDowell previously worked as a lawyer and lobbyist with Comptel, an industry association that opposed the controversial merger. He recused himself, leaving a split of two Republicans and two Democrats on the commission.

Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, attempting to break the tie with his new Republican member, has pushed to have McDowell vote anyway, figuring he will abandon his former client’s position and vote on the Republican party line.

Feder ruled on Dec. 8 that the agency could waive federal ethics guidelines prohibiting McDowell’s participation in order to overcome the political impasse.

Dingell, who has promised more oversight of the FCC and the planned telco merger when the Democrats take control of Congress in January, wasn’t pleased by Feder’s advice.
“The general counsel has not provided a thoughtful and appropriate explanation for departing from the advice of the director of the office of government ethics, which could lead reasonable people to question the integrity of the agency’s decision in this very important matter,” Dingell wrote in a statement.

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