The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has sought information about the departure of Federal Communications Commission member, Meredith Attwell Baker, for a new job at Comcast.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Wednesday asking questions related to Baker’s move to Comcast, a company she regulates, so soon after voting in favor of the cable giant’s merger with NBC Universal.
The deal was approved by the FCC in a 4-1 vote in January. Baker had said in speeches that the process took too long. Last week, she announced she would leave her position as the FCC’s junior Republican minority member to become the senior vice president of Comcast’s Washington lobbying shop.
“Because such a short time has passed since the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, it is imperative that the public can trust the integrity of the process,” Issa wrote.
He asked Genachowski to explain what rules apply to a commissioner’s move to the private sector and whether Baker followed them. Issa asked about the timing of Baker's announcement to the FCC staff and when she recused herself from FCC business. Issa asked that the questions be answered by May 24.
A spokesman for Baker said that “she welcomes Chairman Issa’s interest and this additional opportunity to set forth the facts regarding her decision to leave the Commission.”
Public interest group Free Press sent Issa a petition with more than 130,000 signatures, asking him to investigate Baker’s revolving-door move to Comcast.
“We hope this letter is just the start – and that Congress will launch a serious inquiry that goes beyond the five basic questions asked here,” said Craig Aaron, president of Free Press. “As Chairman Issa suggests, the American people deserve to know whether their public servants are truly serving them, or just auditioning for industry jobs.”
The hiring of Baker has attracted much unwanted publicity for Comcast. This week Reel Grrls, a nonprofit educational program in Seattle, said Comcast rescinded its sponsorship of a summer camp for teen girls because of an unflattering tweet sent by an employee about the Baker hire. Comcast has since apologized and offered to reinstate the funding, but Reel Grrls said it doesn’t want the cable company’s money if doesn’t allow its teen members to exercise free expression.