FCC commissioner Meredith Baker to join Comcast-NBC

Updated 11:45 a.m., Thursday

Federal Communications commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker announced Wednesday that she will resign from the FCC on June 3 and join Comcast-NBC Universal as its senior vice president of governmental affairs.

Baker, a Republican, joined the FCC in 2009 after working at the National Telecomunications and Information Administration under President George W. Bush. While at the NTIA, Baker oversaw a $1.5 billion coupon program to help consumers make the transition to digital-only television.

The commissioner’s announcement comes four months after she voted to approve a joint venture between Comcast and NBC Universal.

In a March speech on the FCC merger process, she said that, in her opinion, “the NBC/Comcast merger took too long.”

The media reform advocacy group Free Press issued a statement criticizing Baker’s move. “This is just the latest -- though perhaps most blatant -- example of a so-called public servant cashing in at a company she is supposed to be regulating,” said Free Press president and CEO Craig Aaron. “The continuously revolving door at the FCC continues to erode any prospects for good public policy.”

Plenty of government staffers have gone on to work for high-profile tech companies, bolstering company knowledge of the regulatory and lobbying landscape. In November, Comcast hired National Cable & Telecommunciations Association head Kyle McSlarrow — Baker’s new boss — to head its D.C. lobbying office. McSlarrow was a former deputy secretary in the Energy Department and ran former Vice President Dan Quayle’s 200 presidential campaign. Other former government staffers now in the tech world include James Cicconi, AT&T’s lead lobbyist and former staffer for George W. Bush, and Arts &Labs head Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary under President Bill Clinton.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have also all hired former White House staffers as the companies wrestle with consumer privacy issues and are called to defend their practices before government panels.

In a statement announcing her resignation, Baker said she is most proud of the work she has done with FCC on spectrum reform. “It is the most important step we can take to ensure our nation’s competitiveness in an increasingly interconnected world,” she said.

In a statement, McSlarrow said, “Meredith’s executive branch and business experience along with her exceptional relationships in Washington bring Comcast and NBCUniversal the perfect combination of skills.”

Related stories:

Federal regulators approve Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, with asterisks

Baker:Hands off tomorrow's Internet

Comcast and NBC: Did the Feds fold?

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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