President Obama moves to staff up the FCC


The FCC has been short-handed at the commissioner level since Republican Meredith Baker left last summer for Comcast, and the exit of Democrat Michael Copps is expected soon. But the nominations of Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel will fill the FCC 8th Floor to capacity, Senate willing.

The nominations are a demonstration that the Washington rumor mill is in good working order – they were predicted at the beginning of October by National Journal.

Rosenworcel makes an apt choice to fill the seat being vacated by Copps – she worked for him at the FCC from 2003-2007.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was among the first wave of inside-the-Beltway types to offer congratulations. He said, “In nominating Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai as FCC Commissioners, President Obama made two outstanding choices for the Commission and for the American people. Given their talent, leadership and expertise in our space, they would both play an invaluable role at the FCC.”

NAB’s Gordon Smith also weighed in. He said, “NAB congratulates Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel — two talented individuals with a commitment to public service — for their nomination to the FCC.”

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) had comments addressed solely to the Rosenworcel nomination. He said, “I could not be more pleased that President Obama has nominated Jessica to be an FCC Commissioner. She is an undisputed communications law expert who has earned the respect of both Democrats and Republicans alike on the Commerce Committee as well as telecommunications industry stakeholders and consumer advocates. As Commissioner Copps once said when Jessica left the FCC to come to the Senate: ‘Their gain is my loss,’ and today, I couldn’t agree more. There is no better qualified person for this position. Jessica will be an effective advocate by working to close the digital divide and bring expanded access to all Americans in this 21st century communications age.”

Here is the White House bio for Pai:
Ajit Varadaraj Pai is a Partner in the Litigation Department of Jenner & Block LLP.  Immediately prior to joining Jenner & Block, Mr. Pai worked in the Office of the General Counsel at the Federal Communications Commission, where he served as Deputy General Counsel, Associate General Counsel, and Special Advisor to the General Counsel.  Previously, he served as Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights and as Senior Counsel at the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice.  Mr. Pai also served as Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, and as Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications Inc.  Mr. Pai began his career as a law clerk to Judge Martin L.C. Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and then as an Honors Program trial attorney in the Telecommunications Task Force at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  Mr. Pai holds a B.A. from Harvard University and a J.D. from the University of Chicago.

And next, the White House bio for Rosenworcel:
Jessica Rosenworcel is the Senior Communications Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, working for Senator Jay Rockefeller IV since 2009, and previously for Senator Daniel K. Inouye from 2007 to 2008.  Before joining the Committee, she worked at the Federal Communications Commission from 1999 to 2007, serving as Legal Advisor and then Senior Legal Advisor to Commissioner Michael J. Copps (2003-2007), Legal Counsel to the Bureau Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau (2002-2003), and as an Attorney-Advisor in the Policy Division of the Common Carrier Bureau (1999-2002).  From 1997 to 1999, Ms. Rosenworcel was a communications associate at Drinker Biddle and Reath.  Ms. Rosenworcel received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.

RBR-TVBR observation: The fact that both candidates have experience on staff at both the FCC and the Senate may well grease the wheels for Senate approval. However, it only takes one senator with a gripe of any kind to hold up a nomination. But we’d bet on smooth sailing for this round of nominations.