FCC and FTC Nominees Couldn’t Be More Different

O'Rielly seen as more hands-off, while McSweeny may be more activist

Mike O’Rielly, the GOP nominee for the Federal Communications Commission, and Terrell McSweeny, the Democratic nominee for the Federal Trade Commission, couldn’t be more different.

The contrasts were on display during the Senate commerce committee nomination hearing, the first major step in filling out two agencies that have been short-handed for several months.

How quickly both nominations move is a tough call, given the pressing financial and budget issues facing Congress. Democrats may be anxious to get O’Rielly’s nomination onto the floor, knowing that the GOP would hold up a vote on FCC chairman nominee Tom Wheeler unless it was paired with O’Rielly. The FCC has been short two commissioners since May.

McSweeny is a different story, and could take longer. Right now it’s 2-2 on the FTC, so the GOP might not be in a hurry to rush her to a floor vote.

Commerce committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said he intended to schedule votes in the committee on each nominee and would "push for quick consideration on the Senate floor," Rockefeller said in a statement following the hearing. "These agencies do their strongest work for the American people when all commissioners are on board."

Ranking member Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he hoped for a “full slate of commissioners by the time Congress breaks for the recess currently scheduled for mid-October.”

Very simply, differences between the two can be easily summed up as hands off (O’Rielly) and hands on (McSweeny). O’Rielly looks at his upcoming role on the FCC as “an opportunity to eliminate burdensome regulation,” while McSweeny told committee members that the FTC “should proceed judiciously by using whatever tools it has to enforcing competition and protecting consumers.”

The FCC’s upcoming spectrum auction in 2014 is a prime example. Coming from the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, McSweeny was significantly involved in the DOJ’s ex parte filing to the FCC that suggested the agency should develop rules to ensure that the big wireless companies don’t gobble up all the wireless spectrum at auction. The filing “was focused on flagging the competition concern and suggested the FCC should think about it,” said McSweeny.

O’Rielly, who attached the slogan “Stand strong for freedom” in his written testimony, is opposed to the FCC setting any limits on which companies can bid. “When the [FCC] tried to micromanage, it’s problematic,” he said. “When they have done such actions, it has led to licensees flipping the licenses. I’m cautious to want to impose limits on bidding.”

Here’s what O’Rielly and McSweeny had to say on some of the other top issues facing the agencies.

O’Rielly on FCC’s pending review of media ownership rules:

“The commission has an obligation to complete its media ownership review, long overdue. I am open to exploring relaxing some of the rules, but I want to hear from all the stakeholders.”

O’Rielly on FCC’s broadcast indecency rules:

“I would commit to enforcing FCC rules fully.”

O’Rielly on regulating the Internet:

“If Congress passes legislation, I would enforce it. But it’s difficult to write legislation for technology that is quickly changing pace. We should have a light touch.”

McSweeny on the advertising industry’s self-regulation of behavioral targeted advertising:

“The FTC’s enforcement mission is vital to protecting consumers' privacy online. I understand [the] frustration in the privacy space with self-regulation. I hope the multistakeholder process continues to guide policy in this area to ensure consumers have protections.”

McSweeny on privacy protections for children 15 and under:

“I support privacy protections for all, particularly children. I am interested in working on protections for teenagers.”

McSweeny on data collection and privacy:

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