Background: The FCC General Counsel late today (Dec. 8) issued a memo on the subject of FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell's recusal in the AT&T takeover of BellSouth. The opinion concludes McDowell is “free to participate if you choose to do so.”
The following is the statement of Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge:
“Commissioner McDowell made the right decision to recuse himself in this proceeding, and FCC General Counsel Sam Feder's opinion said nothing that should cause the Commissioner to change his view. The opinion made a tepid case at best for Commissioner McDowell to participate. Feder seemed to go out of his way to stress that it was McDowell's decision to participate. The Feder memo said it was a “very, very close call” whether McDowell should take part, and that reasonable parties could disagree on a decision. Indeed, the opinion cited the director of the Office of Government Ethics as saying he would decide against authorizing McDowell to participate. This indicates to us McDowell is on safer ground staying out and letting negotiations continue. If anything, this memo counsels extreme caution for McDowell.
“On a broader scale, the concept of the public interest was nowhere to be found in this General Counsel's opinion. The chief concern is the effect on the companies involved, and not the effects of the public interest. Government's role should be broader than meeting arbitrary deadlines or acting for the convenience of large companies.”
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