McDowell exiting the FCC


Robert McDowellThe senior Republican member of the FCC will soon be its current newest member Ajit Pai as Robert McDowell is exiting shortly. He made his plans known at the FCC’s Open Meeting, and said he has no particular plans.

McDowell came to the FCC in 2006 after being nominated by George W. Bush, and was re-nominated in 2009 by Barack Obama. His departure will be early – his current term does not expire until June 2014.

McDowell frequently commented favorably on the collegiality of the Commission, and despite strong ideological differences worked well alongside Democrat Michael Copps for years.

McDowell’s only plan, he said, was to take his family on a vacation. He said the formal announcement about his departure will be forthcoming.

NAB’s Gordon Smith commented, “Robert McDowell has been a remarkably gifted public servant during his seven-year tenure at the FCC. His good humor and grace have been matched only by his ardent support for fair media ownership rules and full-throated support for a vibrant First Amendment. Commissioner McDowell will succeed in whatever path he chooses, and NAB wishes him well.”

Here is McDowell’s full statement:

“After nearly seven years of carrying out the incredibly high honor of serving the American people at the FCC, it is time to turn more of my energies towards an even higher calling: serving my family.  After a great deal of deliberation, I have decided that I will step down as a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission in a few weeks.

“Today’s announcement is not a farewell.  As you know, I don’t do well with those, so let’s avoid all of that for now and tackle that challenge another day.  I will also save most of my expressions of appreciation for a later date.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t offer up some of the bigger thank-yous right away, such as to: God, my parents, my beautiful bride Jennifer, our three amazing children, as well as our large family-at-large, friends, all of my colleagues on the Commission – both past and present, and the talented and dedicated public servants throughout the FCC, especially all of the wonderful and tireless professionals who have worked on my team in my office.  Please keep in mind that trying to make me look good day after day as we fought for freedom must have been quite a challenge for them.
“I would also like to thank the individuals who literally handed me this job, twice: first and foremost, Senator Ted Stevens, President George W. Bush, Senator Mitch McConnell and President Barack Obama, as well as many Members of Congress.  Thank you for placing such enormous trust in me.

“Again, this is not a time for farewells, I’m just announcing my plans to step down sometime soon.  So what am I doing next?  I will be talking to the FCC’s Chief Ethics Officer, Patrick J. Carney, to make sure that my departure is in full compliance with the letter and spirit of all of our ethics rules.  Beyond that, I have no plans other than to take my family on a much-needed vacation starting this weekend.”

RBR-TVBR observation: McDowell’s lack of a particular post-FCC destination will at least temporarily come as good news for government watchdogs who fiercely criticize the revolving door in which individuals build up issue credibility, experience and contacts on Capitol Hill or elsewhere in Washington, and then peddle it to for-profit businesses or lobbying firms with business to conduct in Washington. They will no doubt be pleased that unlike FCC commissioners like Meredith Baker, who exited the Commission early for a gig with Comcast, McDowell is going nowhere, at least for the time being.

However, he has to land somewhere – it will be interesting to see when and where. Stay tuned.

And stay tuned to Capitol Hill, which may find itself seeking a Republican Commissioner, and a Democrat, should the speculation on Chairman Julius Genachowski’s imminent departure prove correct – and that of course will leave the chairman’s seat unoccupied.