Powerful senator pushes aide for FCC slot
Jockeying for an open position on the Federal Communications Commission took another twist this week as Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) reportedly has recommended that one of his aides, Christine Kurth, be nominated for a position on the commission.
Stevens, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee expected to lead a rewrite of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, made his recommendation of Kurth in a letter to President George W. Bush, according to a Reuters report. A former lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board, Kurth has worked for a number of congressional committees dealing with issues regarding technology, energy and spending, the report stated.
“She is not a well-known name in communications circles, but it doesn’t matter,” said Precursor analyst Rudy Baca, a former employee of the FCC’s wireless bureau. “She’s the person Stevens wants, and it is a priority of the President to make Stevens happy on this one.”
Kurth is the second aide Stevens has pushed for the FCC, which has had an open seat since former Chairman Michael Powell resigned in March. Many Beltway observers considered Stevens’ previous recommendation, Earl Comstock, a “lock” for a spot on the FCC until Comstock abruptly withdrew his name from consideration earlier this month amid speculation that he had not paid appropriate taxes associated with the employment of a household employee.
In addition to filling the FCC slot created by Powell’s resignation, another open seat on the commission almost certainly will be available when Congress adjourns later this year. At that time, Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy will be required to leave the FCC as her term expires, and sources indicate she would step down sooner if a replacement is chosen.
One of the favorites for the slot has been Becky Klein, former chairwoman of the Texas PUC. However, the recent announcement of Pat Wood–Klein’s predecessor as Texas PUC chairman–that he will resign as FERC chairman at the end of June may have changed matters. Several Beltway sources have indicated that the Bush administration would rather have Klein chair the important energy agency than be a commissioner on the FCC.
As a result, competition for the final FCC slot is “wide open” right now, Baca said.
Among the names being mentioned for the position are Bill Bailey, a former aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and now an official at XM Satellite Radio, and Howard Waltzman, a lawyer for the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to Reuters.