FCC Commissioner Turned Comcast Flunky Defends Herself

Last week, FCC commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker raised a lot of eyebrows when — only months after voting to approve the controversial merger of Comcast and NBC — she announced she would be jumping ship to become Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, NBCUniversal. The lame duck commissioner recently released a statement to defend herself against allegations of impropriety.

In a statement posted on the FCC’s website, she writes:

I’m proud of my nearly eight years of government service, and especially my service as an FCC Commissioner under Chairman Genachowski’s leadership. Until late this spring, my plan was to seek renomination for a second term as Commissioner. That was true all through the winter during consideration of the Comcast/NBCUniversal transaction and in the months after it was completed.

Not once in my entire tenure as a Commissioner had anyone at Comcast or NBCUniversal approached me about potential employment. When this opportunity became available in mid-April, I made a personal decision that I wanted to give it serious consideration.

Therefore, I immediately sought counsel from the General Counsel of the FCC, and recused myself on April 18th from any matters involving Comcast or NBCUniversal. I have not only complied with the legal and ethical laws, but I also have gone further. I have not participated or voted any item, not just those related to Comcast or NBCUniversal, since entering discussions about an offer of potential employment. Because of this, I plan to depart the Commission as soon as I am able to ensure an orderly wind-down of my office.

I will of course comply with all government ethics and Obama pledge restrictions going forward. I am excited to embark on the next phase of my career and am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with great public servants at the FCC.

Interestingly enough, Atwell Baker’s new gig comes with a list of limitations both because of agreements she signed while working for the FCC and because of conditions put on Comcast during the regulatory review process of the NBC deal.

For example, she will not be allowed to lobby the FCC or any executive agency, at least until the end of the Obama administration. If the president is elected to a second term, that would mean she’d be barred from those lobbying abilities until January 2017.

Additionally, there is a permanent ban on her lobbying the FCC on anything related to the Comcast/NBC merger.

So she’s getting a (presumably) high-paying job that she, in effect, can’t actually do until at least early 2013? Not a bad gig.

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