By Adam R Jacobson
RBR + TVBR
Washington, D.C. insiders love to speculate, and are as eager to discuss their highly thought-out guesswork about a new political appointee as they are the stellar performance of the Washington Capitals pro hockey team.
Talk of who fill the two open Commissioner slots on the FCC has been a part of these conversations for the last several weeks, with three individuals associated with the American Enterprise Institute dominating the discussion.
That’s why the name Brandt Hershman was met with shrugs from several Inside the Beltway Communications attorneys RBR + TVBR spoke with upon learning that Mr. Hershman may be a leading candidate to take the remaining Republican slot on the Commission.
Who is Brandt Hershman? The Executive Director of the Indiana Broadcasters Association can easily answer that question.
Hershman’s key confidant in the Nation’s Capital, Vice President Mike Pence, could probably do so as well.
A HOOSIER HIGH-TECH CHAMPION
As reported in one television industry trade publication on Thursday (1/26), Hershman “is the clear favorite for the FCC’s remaining GOP vacancy.” The report cited “industry insiders.”
Until now, the names most closely associated with the open Republican seat on the FCC have been Roslyn Layton, a visiting Fellow with the American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Internet, Communications and Technology Policy, and two others tied to the AEI: Jeff Eisenach — the visiting scholar and Director for the Center for Internet, Communications and Technology Policy at DC-based conservative “think tank” American Enterprise Institute — and Mark Jamison, a visiting Fellow with the AEI’s Center Eisenach oversees who serves as Director and Gunter Professor of the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida.
The three individuals were each tapped to lead the FCC’s transition team for the Trump Administration, and both Layton and Jamison had been mentioned as potential Commissioners.
However, some in the know across the Nation’s Capital began discussing Hershman in the first week following Trump’s November victory. Then, Politico noted that Hershman was spotted at AT&T’s Forum for Technology, Entertainment and Policy on Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C.
Why is Hershman supposedly a top candidate for a Commission slot?
Hershman presently serves as the Majority Floor Leader of the Indiana Senate. He represents District 7, and as the incumbent in the November 2016 elections defeated his challenger by earning 71.25% of the vote. Hershman’s district is a largely rural swath of land to the northwest of Indianapolis, and includes the Indiana towns of Delphi, Frankfort, and Monticello; his district also touches the Lafayette, Ind., metropolitan area.
Elected to Indiana State Senate in 2000, Hershman has received campaign donations from such companies as AT&T and Comcast of Indiana & Michigan LLC.
Hershman earns what’s practically a minimum wage salary as a state legislator. Most of his income is tied to his role as Managing Partner of The DeNovo Group, a business management consultancy. He also manages his family’s Hershman Farms in the northwestern Indiana hamlet of Wheatfield.
“His name has been bouncing around D.C. for at least a month now, but mostly via various trade press mentions,” says Scott Flick, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
“Hershman’s name has been in the publications [covering D.C. politics] for the last two months,” notes one Inside the Beltway communications attorney who requested anonymity. “That’s a name that has indeed been floating around. But, sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are wrong.”
Another well-placed Inside the Beltway attorney notes, “I can confirm that Mr. Hershman’s name is definitely being mentioned, because of his background and close relationship with VP Pence. I have not heard that he is the “clear favorite,” but he is in the mix.”
Erwin Krasnow, an owner at D.C. law firm Garvey Schubert Baker, notes that his name was brought up in a morning meeting with other attorneys. “No one in our communications group had ever heard of him,” Krasnow says.
Should the rumors ring true, Indiana Broadcasters Association Executive Director Dave Arland will be pleased.
“It would be a great honor to have another Hoosier in the new Administration,” he tells RBR + TVBR. “Sen. Hershman, we have found, is very bright and listens to all sides. Brandt has long been involved in communications policy, and he is a key voice in the Indiana legislature.”
Arland adds that Hershman is viewed as “a high-tech champion” in the state legislature, and the IBA has worked with him on several issues over the last few years.
However, he’s not a household name in Indiana.
“I’ve never heard the name Brandt Hershman,” says Blaine Thompson, editor of weekly Hoosier-focused newsletter Indiana RadioWatch.
Peter Tannenwald, an attorney at Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, suggests that his close friendship with Vice President Pence, which has been documented in recent days in D.C. publications, tells two possible tales. In one, Pence has a special interest in communications, or simply wishes to flex his muscles by appointing someone close to his brain trust. Alternatively, Hershman approached Pence regarding the opportunity.
Back in Washington, the wheels of change may roll to 445 12th Street SW in the next couple of months, based on the timelines seen with the nomination, and subsequent confirmation, of both Jules Genochowski (who became FCC Chairman in late June 2009) and Tom Wheeler (confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November 2013, following a five-month interim FCC Chair stint by current Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn).
Thus, nominations may not be seen until April, with confirmation hearings seen before the first half of the year wraps up.
A NEW NAME IN THE MIX
With new talk surrounding the Indiana state senator, two Inside the Beltway attorneys point to a Jan. 9 article in D.C.-centric Telecom trade Communications Daily in noting that an Atlanta-based attorney could wind up getting the open GOP slot on the Commission.
That’s because she is a former FCC attorney.
Carolyn Tatum Roddy was quietly added to what’s known as the FCC “landing team” earlier this month. Roddy is a sole practicioner who serves on the board of the Georgia Technology Authority and is an adjunct professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School (not to be confused with the Chicago institution of the same name). Roddy has also served as a regional regulatory counsel for Sprint.
If not nominated as a Commissioner, Roddy could be considered as the next International Bureau chief, a source tells Communications Daily.
Not expected to be nominated as an FCC Commissioner are two other landing team members — Bandwidth Inc.’s David Morken, and Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis partner Patricia J. Paoletta.
Thus, all eyes are on Indianapolis, the Vice President, and on the new Republican-led Commission.