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Abernathy's Long Goodbye

FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy is giving up her bid to hold the longest term as a short-timer at the FCC. She sent her letter of resignation to the president this week.

Abernathy has been itching to leave the commission since her term expired in June 2004. She said often that she wanted to spend more time with her young daughter, but she agreed to continue until the president nominated her replacement.

Last week, the White House announced that President Bush would nominate Tennessee Republican Deborah Tate to fill the seat vacated by Kevin Martin, who succeeded Michael Powell as chairman earlier this year. The president also re-nominated Michael Copps, one of two Democrats on the commission. If confirmed, Tate would round out the current two-two balance of the commission in the wake of Abernathy's exit.

In her letter to the president, Abernathy said she intended to cut bait Dec. 9. She is legally bound to exit when the current Congressional session concludes unless Bush decides to give her a recess appointment. If he does so, it would give Martin his first Republican majority since becoming chairman. However, if Congress is unable to confirm Tate before the end of the session and Abernathy is allowed to leave, Martin will be left with a Democratic majority.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is seeking a nominee for Abernathy's slot, indicating that White House senior science advisor Richard Russell may not longer be in the running.

Stevens' committee will hold a hearing on Tate's and Copps' confirmation Dec. 13.

Abernathy, a former telecom lobbyist, summed up her regulatory approach, which was pretty much in lock-step with her Republican colleagues:

"Where consumers have choices, and the ability to make them, pervasive regulation is unnecessary. In line with this realization, we targeted regulation to those comparatively few situations in which marketplace competition and informed consumer choice do not increase consumer welfare."

Abernathy was appreciated by many broadcasters because of her private sector experience and her respect for those running businesses. NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts had this to day about Abernathy's exit:

"Kathleen Abernathy has served the FCC and the American people with class and distinction. Her dedication to principle has been matched only by her gracious demeanor and steady professionalism. We wish Kathleen only the best."

Abernathy and fellow Commissioner Michael Copps both arrived at the agency in 2001. He and his fellow Democrat, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein both had words of praise for Abernathy.