Doors opening at FCC

Al Kamen
Columnist March 20, 2013

Republican Robert McDowell announced Wednesday that he’s leaving the Federal Communications Commission, making it more likely that the FCC’s Democratic chairman will soon depart as well.

McDowell, one of two Republicans on the five-member commission, said he’s leaving the job “in a few weeks.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

And observers say that move makes it easier for Chairman Julius Genachowski to soon follow him to the doors — since now Genachowski will leave Democrats with a 2 to 1 voting advantage (whereas if he’d left before McDowell did, the FCC would be in a 2 to 2 deadlock).

McDowell said he didn’t have a post-FCC job lined up yet. And it’s unclear who President Obama might name as his successor, though whoever the GOP pick is, that nominee could wind up paired with the Democratic nominee to replace Genachowski, following in the tradition of grouping one Democratic candidate with a GOP one for a smoother Senate confirmation.

Though Genachowski on Wednesday said he had “no news” regarding if and when he’d leave the FCC, the White House has been interviewing potential replacements.

Sounds like they might want to stay close to the phone.

Ike and dislike

Rep. Rob Bishop is no architecture buff. The Utah Republican probably couldn’t tell a flying buttress from a mansard roof.

But he loves Dwight Eisenhower. And saving money.

So the congressman is essentially pitting himself against the world’s greatest living architect in a battle over the planned memorial to Ike.

The 14-year odyssey to build the memorial to our 34th president is getting seriously messy, with Bishop holding a hearing on legislation he introduced that would scrap the yet-to-be-built memorial designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry.

Bishop, who chairs the public-lands subcommittee of the Natural Resources panel, hasn’t come right out and called the Gehry-designed memorial — planned for a choice bit of real estate on the Mall — undignified. But he seems to be siding with members of the Eisenhower family who fear that the design is too busy (one family member told the Washingtonian magazine it looked “like a theme park”).

Bishop says he didn’t like the process used to select it, and wants to reopen the process and solicit other designs.

And he fears the whole thing is getting a little pricey, and wants better accounting of how the commission established to oversee the project is spending its money.

A little back story: Congress passed a law in 1999 authorizing an Eisenhower memorial. Since then, the commission solicited proposals and selected Gehry’s design.

But Eisenhower family members started complaining about the design. Some people don’t like the mesh-metal “tapestries” incorporated into it. The family and other critics have questioned the closed-bid process used to select it.

Still others have fired back. The American Institute of Architecture criticized Bishop’s bill, calling it an effort to stifle creativity.

Don’t look for smoother water ahead, either.

Congress has to pass some kind of reauthorization by May in order to hold the spot for the memorial on the Mall. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, is delving into the matter. And everyone in Washington knows how an Issa investigation goes. Spoiler alert: It gets even more intense.

Shamrock shake-up

President Obama may only have named one Hispanic to his second-term Cabinet thus far. But another group is going strong: Irish Americans. Obama on Tuesday noted the preponderance of them in his newly reshuffled inner circle. “The next four years are shaping up to be very green ones here in the White House,” he said during a White House reception celebrating St. Patrick’s Day , citing chief of staff Denis McDonough , national security adviser Tom Donilon , CIA Director John Brennan , and head speechwriter Cody Keenan. Obama added that Vice President Biden had agreed to stay on as “Irishman-in-chief.”

But we bet environmentalists were hoping Obama meant something else when he promised a “green” second term.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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