Telecom Musical Chairs: Regulators And Lobbyists Swap Roles, Everyone Wins! (Except The Public)

from the musical-chairs-without-a-chair-being-taken-away dept

We’ve talked plenty about the big revolving door between government and big business lately, but there are still some moments that are purely insane that show just how broken the system is. On Wednesday, news broke that former FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker has been named the new CEO of CTIA, the main lobbying organization for mobile phone operators. Baker is no stranger to questionable revolving door moves, seeing as just months after she voted to approve Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal, she took a top lobbying job with Comcast. Funny how that works.

But, in this case, it’s even more ridiculous because, as Jon Brodkin points out, the current head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, previously was CEO of CTIA as well. And prior to that he was CEO of NCTA (the cable industry’s main lobbying group). And, to top it off, the current head of CTIA is none other than former FCC chair Michael Powell.

If you’re keeping score at home, it looks like this:

  • Michael Powell: FCC Chair -> NCTA boss
  • Meredith Atwell Baker: FCC Commissioner -> Comcast -> CTIA boss
  • Tom Wheeler: NCTA boss -> CTIA boss -> FCC Chair

They’re playing a game of musical chairs where no chair is ever removed… and they all get fabulously wealthy scratching each others’ backs. Even if everyone is being completely sincere in their positions (a big if, but let’s assume it for now), the real problem here, again, is that the perception of rampant corruption is encouraged by this sort of thing, leading the public to seriously distrust the government. When the top two lobbying organizations on these issues are manned by former top officials and the current top FCC official used to run both those organizations, there’s a pretty clear implication that it’s the public interest that’s going to get shafted.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,
Companies: ctia, ncta

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Telecom Musical Chairs: Regulators And Lobbyists Swap Roles, Everyone Wins! (Except The Public)”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Ninja (profile) says:

And that’s the problem with the US. Bankers are running the financial system, telecoms are running the FCC… Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if oil companies were running the EPA!

It’s a global problem. A poll on Avaaz showed that the people want this corporate influence out. But how can us, mere peons, fight the might of money? It’s harder than we suppose to go without.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

‘how can us, mere peons, fight the might of money? ‘

The only tool available is a passionate, educated vote. Same as always. Until people get off the couch to pay attention, nothing will change until someone screws up their TV.

Actually, I am very much hoping that somewhere along here something will screw up their TV. It is, sadly, our last, best hope.

Lurker Keith says:

Re: Re: Re:

Congress already screwed up TV. Over-the-Air broadcasts were broken when Congress forced the switch to digital before the tech was ready. & I’m mere minutes from a major metropolitan area w/ their own stations, so there’s no reason my TV should “skip” when tractor trailers, for example, go by. This problem affects EVERY CHANNEL, even PBS, though to varying severity.

zip says:

as predictable as broken campaign promises

A presidential candidate named Barack Hussein Obama certainly recognized this problem early on and promised — adamantly and repeatedly — that Washington’s ‘revolving door’ would end if he was elected president. Instead it got worse.

I have a theory: If you want to predict which promises a candidate is most likely to break, count the number of times they repeat that promise, and the forcefulness in which they say it.

DocGerbil100 (profile) says:


Hello, Mr Masnick. 🙂

You seem very inclined to give these people the benefit of the doubt and I find myself wondering: exactly what evidence will you need that they are corrupt in the worst way?

These are experienced politicians, professional lobbyists for their industries – how is there any plausible likelihood that they’re oblivious to the impropriety of such incestuous relationships? How can there be any chance at all that they don’t know how it looks from the outside?

If they were ever to be tried in court for corruption, they might be able to claim some measure of plausible deniability, but that’s not the same as having credibility from the outset. These men have none.

Powell, Baker and Wheeler are textbook cases of utterly shameless, corrupt officials – and short of making public, signed confessions – or wearing sandwich-boards with “whore for sale” written on them – there’s not much more they could do to prove it.

trollificus (profile) says:

If people can’t see that they need to vote for whoever these two corrupt parties are most passionate about excluding, we deserve more of what we’re getting.

And shame on any of you people (and when I say “you people” I mean YOU PEOPLE) who think there’s a good guy/bad guy dichotomy between the two parties. The Democrats sweet talk you with good intentions and pay off the ‘right’ people, and you roll over to have your belly scratched.

Fuck. It’s no wonder this shit goes on and on…

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

There's room for a skit

There’s room for a skit here.

[Setting: Two chairs on opposite sides of a table, both empty. Bob and Ken enter: Bob sits in the left chair and Ken in the right.]

Bob: There ought to be a law.

Ken: You’re right, there ought to be a law. Why don’t you write one?

Bob (hands a piece of paper to Ken): This ought to do it.

Ken: Okay, this isn’t going to be very palatable to the public. No problem; I can just bypass the public comment phase and publish… [A bell sound is heard] Whoops!

[Bob and Ken rise and change chairs.]

Bob: As I was saying, I can just bypass the public comment phase and publish it in the Federal register.

Ken: Sounds good.

Together: Profit will follow.

Ken: There ought to be a law.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s true. The United States is no longer a Constitutional Republic, nor a Representative Democracy.

The United States is now a…


noun, plural plutocracies.

1. the rule or power of wealth or of the wealthy.
2. a government or state in which the wealthy class rules.
3. a class or group ruling, or exercising power or influence, by virtue of its wealth.

or perhaps…


noun, plural oligarchies.

1. government by the few.
2. a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.
3. a country, business, etc., that is controlled by a small group of people .

I suppose both Oligarchy and Plutocracy, describes the present day political system of the United States, but I feel Plutocracy describes it more accurately.

GEMont (profile) says:

Can the public change the laws?

“….and they all get fabulously wealthy scratching each others’ backs.”

…and you still haven’t figured it out yet.

They ARE getting fabulously wealthy, and they just don’t give a damn what you think because there aint a damn thing you can do about it.

Why on earth should they care if the impression of corruption is being sent out by these actions, when the public is absolutely powerless to do anything at all about it.

Go ahead. Make a suggestion as to what could be done by the public to stop such blatantly corrupt practices.

The laws say its 100% ok to bribe politicians with placement in the industry or commercial operations they do favors for while in office. The law even says its OK to pay them cash for favors. Its called lobbying.

Can the public change the laws?

Not a hope in hell as long as the Fed is simply the PR department of Big Business and Big Business belongs to the Mob.

Zurls says:

Cheatsheet to who's killing net neutrality at the FCC

Actually, the revolving door is much worse. How much?

– FCC chairman Tom Wheeler – before FCC, president and CEO of the CTIA (wireless trade group), then president and CEO of the NCTA (National Cable Television Assoc.), then telecom & cable lobbyist, now FCC Chairman
– FCC commish Ajit Pai – former assoc. general counsel at Verizon
– FCC commish Michael O’Reilly – former policy adviser in the Office of the Senate Republican Whip.
– Lead legal adviser Matthew DelNero – former Comcast adviser, retained by the Wireless Assoc. (CTIA) and the National Cable and Telecom Assoc.
– Legal adviser Brendan Carr – attorney for AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon, and the U.S. Telecom Assoc.

– Former FCC chairman Michael Powell – CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assoc.
– Former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski – joined the shadowy, Bush run private equity firm Carlyle Group
– Former FCC commish Meredith Attwell Baker – before FCC worked at CTIA (wireless trade group), then FCC, then lobbyist for Comcast, now head of CTIA
– Former FCC commish Jonathan Adelstein – president and CEO of PCIA: The Wireless Infrastructure Assoc.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...