Bill Aims to Shut FCC’s Revolving Door

Proposal would have made FCC commissioner Baker wait a year to join Comcast

When former commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker announced in May her exit from the Federal Communications Commission for Comcast just four months after casting her vote to approve the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger, it set off the usual outcry over the revolving door between government agencies and the companies they regulate.

Now a new bill aims to stop that well-worn Washington practice. The FCC Merging Entities Regulatory Guidance and Ethical Reform Act, or Merger Act, would prohibit FCC officials from accepting employment with a company it regulated for one year. Introduced Tuesday by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the Merger Act would also authorize the FCC to set up new rules to require public disclosure of contributions it received from companies that submit comments to the agency related to merger reviews, rulemakings or adjudicatory proceedings.

"The commission must adopt rules to end the revolving door between the agency and the entities it regulates," Waters said in a statement. "The American public must have confidence that agency officials are at all times acting in the public trust and not in anticipation of an employment opportunity."

Waters' bill is the latest proposal aimed at reforming how the FCC operates, but it's a little late to the game and may have a tough time in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Over objections by many Democrats, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology in November voted out two FCC process reform bills sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and the subcommittee's chairman.