What Corruption Looks Like: FCC Commissioner Takes Job At Comcast Months After She Voted To Approve Its Deal With NBC Universal

from the revolving-doors dept

A lot of folks are shaking their heads after learning that FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker is leaving her post to take a lobbying job at Comcast just a few months after she voted to approve Comcast’s massive purchase of NBC Universal. Now, let’s be clear: there’s nothing illegal in her taking this job. While she can’t lobby the FCC for two years, she can lobby Congress or other parts of the government. And, it doesn’t mean that she’s corrupt at all. But it’s this kind of move that makes people trust our government less and highlights why so many people believe that our government is corrupt.

When you have a massive revolving door, in which the people voting on important deals for companies are likely to get massive salary increases in jobs from those same companies a few months later, it’s certainly going to make plenty of people assume corruption, even if there isn’t any. So even if it’s not corruption in the classical sense, it’s hard not to see this as a form of regulatory capture. Baker’s term is up in June, but it had been expected she would be re-nominated and would stay. But, making this decision so soon after voting on such a huge deal for the FCC certainly raises some questions about when she started talking to Comcast about a job and when she even decided she was looking for a different job.

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Companies: comcast, nbc universal

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Comments on “What Corruption Looks Like: FCC Commissioner Takes Job At Comcast Months After She Voted To Approve Its Deal With NBC Universal”

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56 Comments
bshock (profile) says:

it doesn't mean she's corrupt?

I’m sorry, Mike, but if this doesn’t constitute corruption, then we desperately need to change our definition of corruption.

Okay, we can’t know that the potential job at Comcast affected Ms. Baker’s FCC decision, but I really believe we need to change the rules to eliminate the very possibility that it might occur.

I mean, this “revolving door” between government and corrupt corporations (and okay, I’m a radical, but I tend to think that our conscience-free corporate citizens are guilty until proven innocent) is becoming a disgusting cliche. Goldman Sachs executives go to work for the government and government officials go to work for Goldman Sachs. Regulatory officials go to work for BP and its associates. The list goes on and on.

And it must stop.

ofb2632 (profile) says:

Re: it doesn't mean she's corrupt?

I completely agree. For her to get such a high paying job, my question is this. When did she apply? How long has she considered this completely life changing move? My answer is this. She is corrupt. she knew a favorable vote would get her that job. They need to dig into each and every email and phone call and see just when she was bought off. The entire merger should be dismantled in the face of this corruption.

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: it doesn't mean she's corrupt?

Now, let’s be clear: there’s nothing illegal in her taking this jobAnd, it doesn’t mean that she’s corrupt at all.

You can read this as “I have no evidence that anything she is doing is illegal, and I can’t prove in a court of law that she is corrupt”

Note the headline of the article, What Corruption Looks Like, the point is very clear that this appears to be a corrupt politician (Is there any other kind?) that used her position in the FCC to garner goodwill with and a high paying job from a company that she was tasked with regulatory supervision of.

The threat of a Defamation/Libel Lawsuit is not insignificant in a case such as this so I can understand choosing your words carefully.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: it doesn't mean she's corrupt?

pretty sure we had a huge argument in the comments last time that amounted to anti-mike-people arguing that he was making false accusations and anti-anti-mike people arguing that it was compleatly true and a few sane people going ‘ummm… he worded that really badly’.

same wording as this time, if memory serves. problem is, this does Technically mean what mike wants it to, and is snappy. all the clearer alternatives are… not.

Anonymous Coward says:

I see it like this:

Random guy does something slightly suspicious: he gets detained and interrogated. (If the guy was at the airport, he doesn’t even need to do anything suspicious)

Politician (who has more power and more responsibility) does something (slightly?) suspicious: nothing to see here!?

Are our priorities screwed up or what?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

More like random guy does something that might be slightly suspicious of violating a victimless crime if interpreted by an idiot, gets detained and interrogated. (ie: laptops searched at border to search for infringing material under the false pretext that the info on it could be terrorist related).

Politician does something highly suspicious of committing an act that has tons and tons of victims and impacts a whole lot of people, who cares.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

that word ‘often’ is important too, of course.
it’s the part that makes the statement true. heh.

i seem to remember something about underfunding leading to drug smugglers having their boats impounded… then the boats get auctioned off to cover costs and the smugglers buy them right back…

but i can’t for the life of me remember the source for that bit of information so it’s reliability is, of course, nill.

MrWilson says:

Even if it weren’t overt, money-in-a-briefcase-passed-under-the-table corruption, this is still corruption. Whether its the person or the system, something is corrupt if this is happening. Even without this revolving door activity, just the approval of the Comcast/NBC deal denotes either corruption or incompetence. If its incompetence, then it’s also negligence. The deal had nothing to do with benefits for consumers, unless by benefits we mean that getting screwed is a benefit or having fewer choices to drive up competition and drive down prices.

sheenyglass (profile) says:

Definitely unethical

I think its interesting that we have kind of a “boys will be boys” about this type of situation. There is a clear conflict of interest, so I think its almost unambiguously unethical, even without a quid pro quo.

In my experience, the standard in ethical professional behavior is to avoid the appearance of impropriety. One of the benefits of this standard is that we do not need to see an explicit quid pro quo to call foul. If chicanery is a reasonable inference, then the action falls below minimal ethical standards, even without actual bribery.

So basically we’ve become so inured to it, that we don’t really view it as the corruption it is. My impression is taht even those of us who despise it view it in the same way we would view a shady used car salesman – distasteful, but still within the bounds of acceptable.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: "boys will be boys"

*laughs* well, once upon a time it might have been a reasonable assumption, in general, due to the social situation at the time (largely lack of opertunity :P)… of course, the ones who conform to this thought also don’t end up anywhere near that sort of high ranking job in the corrupt system that is big business and government.

Charles Lloyd (user link) says:

It's should be classified as treason

Clearly we can say that the entire concept of taking huge lobbyist dollars after being appointed to regulate the same industry is an obvious conflict of interest. But, “conflict of interest” is far too weak when describing the sale of government power behind the veil of an argument for big business providing “more value” to the consumer. This level of a transparent breach of public trust is in my opinion, the equivalent of selling national secrets to a foreign country. It’s treason IMO and should carry with it, the appropriate corresponding penalty.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Call it what it is

Ok Mike, we all understand that you don’t want to be accused of libel or slander or be sued for what you say. The rest of us are not so hindered.

Whether or not taking the job at Comcast is corruption is a bit of a non-issue. The job itself is corrupt, which only adds support to the original thought of corruption.

“Baker is leaving her post to take a lobbying job at Comcast”

Just substitute the other word for the SAME act and you get:

Baker is leaving her post to take a BRIBERY job at Comcast

PanAmMan (profile) says:

Corruption is an Institution

Most corruption is evaluated based on both the real and perceived impact of an individual?s actions when elevated to a level of authority larger than an individual.

By these standards almost no politician and or political appointee could lobby for an organization or an individual with a vested interest was impacted by one or more of their previous decisions. In a like fashion they would be required to recues themselves from voting and or influencing other voting members on matters where they had previously represented private or commercial interests.

Government has no guarantee of free speech and thus its members have no guarantee of free speech independent of the interests of ALL of their constituents. Simply put the mere implication of impropriety precludes the elected and or appointed official from holding a ?personal? right to that action.

Thus the FCC commissioners actions of announcing her intention to leave the organization for a specific job the intention of which is to leverage her unique experiences to the benefit of their client is an act that is inconsistent with her oath to ?we the people? she is still representing on behalf of those we elected.

Bluntly put she misused her pulpit (free speech) of her office and our trust if only in her disdain for the office our elected officials appointed her too.

The question we all need to address are not clear violations such as the FCC chair?s requirement not to do harm ?while? in office but similar violations of the pulpit we have given them ?after? they leave office. The coat tails of power extend well beyond 2 years especially for those who are career influencers who bounce in and out of appointed power w/o ever being elected directly by anyone.

We have not seen the last of the FCC chair, a woman who has proven her ability to influence agendas in favor of commercial entities.

farooge (profile) says:

Sickening

She should be in jail for corruption, PERIOD (so should everyone else who does this)

Why doesn’t the law say (basically) “If a moron in a hurry would consider it corruption it is [end of legal jargon]”

How does one go about starting to fix this crap? Who can I vote for who isn’t looking forward to benefiting from the setup (and stands a snowballs chance in hell)?

damnit, this is getting really old (and quite demoralizing)

god help us

Anonymous Coward says:

The Enemy Within.....

This is an area where conservatives and liberals, democrats and republicans, left and right should be lockstep arm-in-arm, singing the same tune. This is outright corruption and so what if it is legal today. It needs to be made illegal. We have been warned in the past by our founding fathers, and several “above board” politicians since then to beware of the government-media-military-industrial complex. When the administration uses MSN as a mouthpiece and politicians retire from public service only to fall into corporate positions that lobby their former congressional and political colleagues for “favors” it is time for ALL Americans to demand something be done about it. It is this type of insider corruption that is tearing this country apart from within and it is the enemy within that is the most dangerous – not the bin ladens of the world. Those idiots will soon be caught and killed like Saddam in his hole or Bin Laden in his so-called mansion. But the criminals we need to worry about are the ones that carry pens and big checkbooks or those who hold back door congressional meetings or presidents who campaign on the topic of open government and transparency and then proceed to run one of the most closed door – secretive administrations in US history. These are the real criminals and they are doing more damage to this country everyday than any so-called terrorist ever has or ever will.

Michial Thompson (user link) says:

Y'All tend to forget

Have y’all forgotten that Corporations are consumers just as much as you are? Why shouldn’t a corporation have a say in the laws that affect them?

Besides how many of you so called radicals are willing to quit your jobs in the corporate world???? Kind of hypocritical to sit and talk about how corrupt they are as you take the paycheck to the bank don’t you think?

Spaceboy (profile) says:

Re: Y'All tend to forget

“Have y’all forgotten that Corporations are consumers just as much as you are? Why shouldn’t a corporation have a say in the laws that affect them?”

They aren’t consumers, they aren’t people, they aren’t citizens. They are corporate entities run by a select few individuals. It’s these individuals that determine how their political money gets spent.

They almost get to vote twice. Once at the polls and again with all the lobbyist pressure.

PanAmMan (profile) says:

Combating the Seeds of Corruption

Combating the corruption of power by appointed (non-elected) officials is very easy if we all have the courage to insist on elected legitimacy.

Legitimacy for appointed officials starts by prohibiting the appointment of lobbyists to non-elected positions. Lobbyists being defined here as anyone who has received payment, directly or through their employer, to influence government employees, appointees and or elected officials.

The ?Once a Lobbyist Always a Lobbyist? clause would create a one way door through which lobbyists would pass preventing them from receiving a future appointment as a non-elected official not vetted by we the public at large.

I should point out that it would not prevent a lobbyist from being vetted by and subsequently elected by ?We the people? at large. We deserve the government we elect! That?s why we only give them about 4 years. We make mistakes and we know it!

The implications of these simple but powerful prohibitions on conflict of interest are easy to understand. Their absence is not!

Taking action means speaking action. If you want a change you have to tell your elected officials what you want and expect.

McBeese says:

If a judge who presided over a serious trial was hired by the defendant’s law firm within a couple of months, I’m sure it would be grounds for an investigation, an appeal, or maybe even a mistrial.

This context is no different. The approval for the NBC deal should be rescinded until it can be reviewed impartially and a new policy should be implemented to block this kind of corruption. Even if everything here is on the up-and-up, which I seriously doubt, when you hold a public position appearances are just as important as reality. At best, this shows contempt and bad judgement. At worst, it is blatant corruption.

Bob says:

Inherently corrupting

Part of the problem is that there doesn’t have to be a single direct bribe for these companies to corrupt government officials into benefiting them while harming the public. If you are a regulator, and a company with a habit of hiring (at big fat salaries) regulators who screw over the public in favor of the company asks you to screw over the public in favor of the company…

So they screw over the public today knowing they can cash in later, because all the other regulators who screwed over the public cashed in later. All without anyone offering anyone any kind of illegal payoff.

In other words, suppose this is all on the up and up. What is the next regulator in her position going to be thinking about when Comcast asks to merge with every other cable company in America? How much it will hurt consumers? Or how nice a house she can buy when Comcast (which hasn’t said a single word to her about a job…yet) hires her in a few months?

If gratitude is “the lively expectation of favors to come”, then every regulator has reason to be “grateful” to these companies, even if they haven’t taken a dime from them…yet.

The only way to stop this would be to have an absolute ban. Any company that has ever had any regulatory dealing with a regulator should not ever be allowed to hire the regulator.

tesla sTinker (user link) says:

it doesn't mean she's corrupt?

what makes you think it does not mean she is corrupt. every last little idiot that takes a dime from the 666 corp to shut out small business corrupting the fcc in any shape of communication alteration or form at all, disobeys the real US Constitution, for the people. This is fact. Its like any other tool that places disadvantage. The internet. All because a cop said so. What cop? I certainly dont see one.

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