Telecommunications Policy

Obama Appoints Another Top Campaign Bundler to Run the FCC

|

credit: DSmous / Foter.com / CC BY

In March, Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski announced that he was stepping down. Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that President Obama is expected to announce that he'll name Tom Wheeler to replace him. Like Genachowski, Wheeler is a tech-industry veteran and big-time Obama-campaign bundler: Genachowski helped found a tech-startup incubator and was a senior advisor to a tech-centric private equity firm; he was also a $500,000 bundler for Obama's first presidential campaign. Wheeler is a former head of trade groups for both the cable and wireless industries who reportedly helped raise more than $1.1 million for the president's election campaign.

Unsurprisingly, Wheeler is already being criticized by some tech activists on the political left for his industry ties. "The Federal Communications Commission needs a strong leader — someone who will use this powerful position to stand up to industry giants and protect the public interest," said Free Press president Craig Aaron, according to The Wall Street Journal. "On paper, Tom Wheeler does not appear to be that person, having headed not one but two major trade associations." But this doesn't tell us a whole lot; you can pretty much always count on Free Press to complain that federal regulators aren't doing enough to make the telecom industry miserable.

Somewhat more telling is that many other liberal tech crusaders seem to be supportive: Susan Crawford and Phil Weiser, two former high level tech advisers to the Obama administration, are just a few of the left of center tech-policy thought leaders who signed a letter in support of Wheeler. Public Knowledge, another influential left-leaning tech policy shop, also issued a statement in support of Wheeler.

Wheeler will face many of the same issues as his predecessor: spectrum allocation, various mobile and broadband regulations, media consolidation and ownership issues, as well as a continuing fight over net neutrality. Genachowski spent the bulk of his first two years atop the FCC attempting to pass net neutrality guidelines after a court threw out a previous attempt by the agency to enforce the idea. Genachowski eventually got neutrality rules through the commission, but they are being challenged again in a federal appeals court.

It's not entirely clear how or if Wheeler will differ from Genachowski on many of the FCC's big issues, but like his predecessor, he seems more than a little interested in expanding the agency's reach. In a 2011 blog post, he implied that he favored a proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile—not because of the possibility of consumer or industry benefits from the merger, but because the resulting bigness would have given the FCC greater authority over the mobile broadband market. 

NEXT: Las Vegas Officer Relieved of Duty "With Pay" After November Shooting

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “…not because of the possibility of consumer or industry benefits from the merger, but because the resulting bigness would have given the FCC greater authority over the mobile broadband market.”

    Then let me be the first to proclaim… “Fuck off, slaver”

    1. Then let me be the first to proclaim… “Fuck off, slaver”

      Instant DQ….sorry colonel…you have to make a FOE “first” claim before any other statement can be accepted.

      It’s just how things are done around here.

  2. I’m split on this topic. On the one hand, drawing from a pool of decidedly anti-industry applicants would likely do more harm to the telecommunications industry than an insider trade-group lobbyist with definite corporate ties. Corporatism trumps the regulatory serfdom Free Pressers seem to want inflicted on the industry. On the other hand, of course, supporting obvious graft such as this makes me want to crank the hot water up to full and sit in the steam with a loofa and a bar of soap.

    I guess I’m not really conflicted, actually. Fuck them both ways. I don’t care.

  3. he implied that he favored a proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile?not because of the possibility of consumer or industry benefits from the merger, but because the resulting bigness would have given the FCC greater authority over the mobile broadband market.

    Anyone who thinks like that should be kept away from power.

  4. Old version: Never attribute malice to what can be explained by incompetence.

    New version: Never attribute malice or incompetence to what can be explained by corruption.

    We should call this John’s law.

  5. I kind of like the idea of a corrupt know nothing running the FCC, or–at least–I don’t see how a crony suck-could could be all that much worse than a wild-eyed true believer,

    1. *suck-up* sigh

    2. I would be hard pressed to name a single Obama supporter who isnt a wild eyed believer.

      Being corrupt does not negate the possibility of fanaticism.

      1. True.

      2. “Our graft is so much fairer and purer now!”

    3. Form what I’ve seen, the industry insiders are less damaging than the True Believers. I’ll take 10 Michael Powells for every Michael Copps.

  6. From NPR’s lead in, identifying this guy as a “venture capitalist” first, followed closely by mentioning that he’s one of Obama’s top campaign benefactors, I had a sinking feeling that nothing will improve, in the area of mass media management, in the foreseeable future.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.