Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., should be at the top of every media and technology company's lobbying to-do list. As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Walden has a real, direct impact on the industry. With his gavel, Walden decides which bills get a hearing—and which die on the vine.
But despite his position—and his connections to the House leadership—Walden, whose district takes up two-thirds of Oregon, doesn't look or act like your typical D.C. power broker. "He's not a show horse; he's a plow horse," says former Sen. Gordon Smith, the president of the National Association of Broadcasters, who served with Walden in Oregon's legislature. A plaque on the front of the congressman’s desk says it all: "Pull up yer big boy boxers & git 'r dun."
Maybe this attitude comes from Walden's career before politics when he owned five small market radio stations. The influence of that experience is clear. When he was named to chair his subcommittee, he tweeted about it in Morse code. "Just the ham operator in me having fun," he wrote.
"There’s a lot of similarity" between broadcasting and politics, Walden explains. "You're actively involved in the community as a small market broadcaster. You're out covering city council meetings, school board meetings, you’re asked to serve on chamber of commerce boards. So it's a smooth and natural transition because it’s all about trying to figure out how to make your community better."
But that doesn’t mean Walden won’t fight for what he believes in. He’s working hard, for instance, to kill the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, which he calls a "blatant power grab," and succeeded in getting a bill to overturn those rules through the House. He called the FCC in front of his subcommittee earlier this year to address his concerns about net neutrality. Later this year, he could call the commissioners in again as he takes on the task of reforming the commission.
"I'd rather take on the tough issues and solve them, realizing you're going to get beat up along the way by your friends sometimes, and by your enemies always," Walden says. "But at least you're making a difference as opposed to people who sit on the sidelines."