Rep. Maxine Waters advocates new ethics rules for FCC commissioners

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has introduced legislation to implement new ethics rules for members of the FCC, including preventing commissioners from accepting a job at a company within one year of an FCC proceeding involving the company.

Waters, herself accused of ethical misconduct in the House, introduced the Merging Entities Regulatory Guidance and Ethical Reform (MERGER) Act this week. It would allow the FCC to require groups that submit comments to the agency to disclose the political contributions they have received.

Blocking FCC members from taking jobs after commission proceedings is clearly targeted at former commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker. She quit the FCC last May to join Comcast, just four months after she voted to approve the cable company’s merger with NBC Universal. Waters was against that merger.

“The American public must have confidence that agency officials are at all times acting in the public trust and not in anticipation of an employment opportunity,” said Waters, who opposed the Comcast-NBC merger.

House Republicans have proposed policy changes they contend will improve accountability and transparency at the FCC. Democrats say the Republicans’ moves would simply limit the FCC’s power.

“Although the Republicans continue to focus their FCC reform agenda on deregulation and aggressive efforts to diminish the Commission’s capacity to implement rules and reject mergers, I strongly believe that the FCC should review its public comment process and assess whether improvements can be made to promote greater transparency and accountability,” Waters said.

The House Ethics Committee has been investigating charges since 2009 that Waters helped secure federal funding for a bank in which her husband owned stock. Waters denied the charges. The investigation has been hampered by staff departures and delays.