Monday, November 30, 2020

FCC: Clyburn Or Rosenworcel Likely To Be Chair

Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel

The Federal Communications Commission will soon shift to Democratic control, and speculation has already begun about who will assume the chairmanship under the Biden administration, reports Variety.

Jessica Rosenworcel, the senior Democrat on the commission, is widely considered to be one of the leading candidates to succeed Ajit Pai in the powerful regulatory post. She has been vetted twice and would likely have a smooth path to confirmation, which would be a key consideration assuming the Senate remains in Republican hands.

“I think Jessica Rosenworcel probably has the best chance of becoming chair,” said John Orlando, former head of global government affairs at CBS. “The ease of her getting confirmed is far easier than anybody else.”

She also has the backing of Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. He issued a statement to Variety praising Rosenworcel’s work on net neutrality and on expanding broadband access to low-income students since she joined the commission in 2012.

Another possibility is Mignon Clyburn, who served on the commission from 2009-18. A former newspaper publisher, Clyburn is the daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn, whose endorsement proved critical to Joe Biden’s win in the Democratic primary. Mignon Clyburn has been named to Biden’s transition team for the FCC.

But relationships are also important, and Biden could select someone other than a current commissioner to chair the regulatory body. Edward “Smitty” Smith, a partner at DLA Piper in Washington, is one such possibility.

Gomez and Smith
Smith is a D.C. native who served as an adviser to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. He was also a bundler for Biden’s presidential campaign, and hosted a fundraiser for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the fall of 2019. (Harris’ husband, entertainment attorney Douglas Emhoff, works in DLA Piper’s Los Angeles office.) Along with Mignon Clyburn, Smith was named to the Biden FCC transition team.

Another name that has been floated is Anna Gomez, a partner at Wiley Rein, a major D.C. law firm. She was an official at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration until 2013, and prior to that worked for a dozen years in various roles at the FCC. She has also been named to the Biden transition’s agency review team for the Department of Commerce.

With a 3-2 majority, the Democratic commissioners are widely expected to work to restore net neutrality.

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