Approve a buyout, get a sinecure?

posted at 10:12 am on May 12, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Meet NBC Universal’s newest executive, Atwell Baker.  She’ll soon be leading the government-relations unit for the new subsidiary of Comcast after the cable giant bought the network from GE.  Fortunately, the position exists because the FCC approved the buyout earlier this year; otherwise, Ms. Baker might have been stuck in her previous job for the next several years.

And what was her previous job?  Why, Baker served on the FCC as one of its five commissioners — and approved Comcast’s purchase of NBC:

Meredith Attwell Baker, one of the two Republican Commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission, plans to step down—and right into a top lobbying job at Comcast-NBC.

The news, reported this afternoon by the Wall Street JournalThe Hill, andPolitico, comes after the hugely controversial merger of Comcast and NBC earlier this year. At the time, Baker objected to FCC attempts to impose conditions on the deal and argued that the “complex and significant transaction” could “bring exciting benefits to consumers that outweigh potential harms.”

Four months after approving the massive transaction, Attwell Baker will take a top DC lobbying job for the new Comcast-NBC entity, according to reports.

Apparently, Baker couldn’t wait to jump ship.  She was widely expected to get a nomination for another term on the FCC.  As Politico points out, though, two months ago Baker was griping that the buyout was taking too long:

While Baker is barred from lobbying the commission for two years, her decision to leave the commission so soon after it approved the merger of Comcast with NBCUniversal raised some eyebrows.

“As recently as March, Commissioner Baker gave a speech lamenting that review of the Comcast-NBC deal ‘took too long.’ What we didn’t know then was that she was in such a rush to start picking out the drapes in her new corner office,” Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron said in a release.

Unfortunately for Republicans, Baker was one of their strongest voices inside the executive branch in opposition to Net Neutrality.  Regardless of the circumstances, her unseemly haste in cashing in on the Comcast decision will make it more difficult for her replacement, who by statute cannot be another Democrat, to frame that opposition as principled rather than self-interest.

And that assumes that President Obama will appoint a Republican who opposes Net Neutrality, or a Republican at all.  He could appoint a Green, for instance, or technically even an “unaffiliated” candidate would qualify.  After Baker’s career boost, expect Obama to take full advantage of the opening.


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Revolving door into the lobby of the “Business As Usual” corporation.

Bishop on May 12, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Party of principle.

a capella on May 12, 2011 at 10:17 AM

How does the old saw go-no honor among thieves?

marinetbryant on May 12, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Republican? Two party crony capitalism.

rbj on May 12, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Now do you begin to understand why Net Neutrality is necessary? Comcast was the ISP who tried to curtail Netflix delivery to customers because it competes with their own program delivery services:

A recent study found that at peak times, Netflix represented 20 percent of Internet download traffic in the United States. That makes it a de facto competitor for incumbent distributors like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which are eager to protect both the subscription television business and the emerging video-on-demand business.

I’ve always wondered why some Republicans were against rules requiring noninterference with internet protocols — but now I understand.

unclesmrgol on May 12, 2011 at 10:23 AM

The is obviously an ethics violation. She needs to be removed from her new job, lose any accrued benefits from her old job, as well as pay back all the money she was paid while fraudulently employed, and be barred from any government contacts in any new position.
She actually influenced a VERY important issue in net neutrality. That could have been VERY bad.

She needs to be held accountable for this.

KMC1 on May 12, 2011 at 10:23 AM

I know that the government has no shame, but I thought something like this is a conflict of interest and borderline illegal!

NavyMustang on May 12, 2011 at 10:24 AM

So much for the most transparent administration….EVAH!

search4truth on May 12, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Another example of a very old problem with regulatory agencies: either their personnel comes from the industry being regulated and rotates back into it (because that’s where the expertise is), which means they tend to be captured by the industry they regulate; or they’re filled with activists hostile to (and ignorant of) the industry, and mess it up.

LarryD on May 12, 2011 at 10:29 AM

No wonder the Washington DC area was able to escape recession over the past four years …

furytrader on May 12, 2011 at 10:32 AM

I know that the government has no shame, but I thought something like this is a conflict of interest and borderline illegal!

NavyMustang on May 12, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Oh I dunno, we used to hire NRC resident inspectors away from the NRC to help us with….NRC regulatory issues. At that time we paid a lot more than the gov did so it was easy to suck them in. We once hired the NRC resident inspector at our plant to work in engineering at the same plant. His first assignment help us understand and implement some new NRC rules and get through our first NRC check of our methods. One day he’s the regulator checking out how we do business next day he’s the regulated…literally. He just walked out of his office and up the stairs to his new cubicle. Didn’t even get his own private office, just a big pay raise.

Oldnuke on May 12, 2011 at 10:34 AM

to be fair, 3 of the other commissoners approved it as well (don’t know what the deal was with the 5th one). So it appears to have been approved on the merits. Still unseemly though.

BuzzCrutcher on May 12, 2011 at 10:38 AM

*sigh*

capejasmine on May 12, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Baker was one of their strongest voices inside the executive branch in opposition to Net Neutrality.

Makes you wonder if that was because she was being “paid” to oppose net neutrality. There’s a Republican I wouldn’t mind seeing Eric Holder investigate.

cartooner on May 12, 2011 at 10:43 AM

I think we need to go back to the smallest government possible and let states and localities govern themselves and their communities. The way this is set up it can’t help but become corrupt, which it has…

CCRWM on May 12, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Government and global media attached at the hip? Get out!

RedRedRice on May 12, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Just wondering if she owns a pair of knee pads?

repvoter on May 12, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Oh I dunno, we used to hire NRC resident inspectors away from the NRC to help us with….NRC regulatory issues. At that time we paid a lot more than the gov did so it was easy to suck them in. We once hired the NRC resident inspector at our plant to work in engineering at the same plant. His first assignment help us understand and implement some new NRC rules and get through our first NRC check of our methods. One day he’s the regulator checking out how we do business next day he’s the regulated…literally. He just walked out of his office and up the stairs to his new cubicle. Didn’t even get his own private office, just a big pay raise.

Oldnuke on May 12, 2011 at 10:34 AM

I’m on board with you there, oldnuke. Even though I would be a little uncomfortable also with the situation you describe, I’ve seen what you’re talking about many times.

In this case, though, the financial gain incurred, because she (and her colleagues) approved the merger, would make hiring her particularly unseemly. Then again, nothing the government does these days surprises me anymore.

NavyMustang on May 12, 2011 at 10:49 AM

What do you want to bet Obama working with Immelt of GE arranged this little sweetheart deal to get an opponent of Net Neutrality out of the way. Her replacement probably won’t share that sentiment.

nkviking75 on May 12, 2011 at 10:53 AM

Capitalism and free markets ar long past dead. Cronyism all the way.

The two party system is a corrupt farce.

rickyricardo on May 12, 2011 at 10:57 AM

Ot: did y’all see the link on drudge re:soros whose monies are invested in about 30 news organizations…..

Another move along, nothing to see here issue for the lsm

cmsinaz on May 12, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Captain Renault Award® of the Day.

MassVictim on May 12, 2011 at 11:00 AM

unclesmrgol on May 12, 2011 at 10:23 AM

Let me get this straight – Comcast wanted to throttle a third-party’s access to its customers in its network. A third party it’s in competition with. And as I recall, Comcast was trying to recover costs associated with the traffic generated by Netflix. They shouldn’t be able do that? I think they should restructure their rate schedules to the customers who are generating the traffic, or load-balance to that the non-netflix users aren’t screwed over by their bandwidth-hogging neighbors.

What’s wrong with that? It’s their network, to be managed as they see fit. Property, ownership, and all that. But you want to be able to dictate what Comcast can and can’t do with it’s own property. Their CUSTOMERS have that right; they can walk away and go to a competing service that won’t throttle them. But people who don’t have a relationship with Comcast should just stay the hell out.

Now do you see why we don’t need Net Neutrality? It’s the same old power-grab dressed up in high tech duds.

JeffWeimer on May 12, 2011 at 11:10 AM

I seem to remember reading that military officers involved even indirectly with civilian defense contractors cannot be employed by those contractors for a specified period of time following retirement, a way to reduce–at least to a degree–outright improprieties or even the appearance of undue influence and graft. Perhaps a similar policy should be implemented across the board, a policy encompassing civilian regulatory and oversight agencies, as well.

What Baker did was wrong. The details of the her employment with Comcast should be closely examined. Even if nothing was technically illegal, it was certainly unethical. That particular sweetheart deal should be…inconvenienced, for lack of a better word.

troyriser_gopftw on May 12, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Didn’t an Air Force Colonel go to jail for something similar regarding a Boeing procurement? Maybe they could be cellmates.

stuartm650 on May 12, 2011 at 11:15 AM

The only logical, ethical regulation on these bureaucrat vermin is to prevent them from ever lobbying congress or their stupid little bureaucracy, once they leave. Two years is meaningless.

Jaibones on May 12, 2011 at 11:17 AM

And the beat goes on…………..

Herb on May 12, 2011 at 11:20 AM

A pox upon your house, Ms. Baker. You have not served honorably, after all.

Freelancer on May 12, 2011 at 11:40 AM

I’ve always wondered why some Republicans were against rules requiring noninterference with internet protocols — but now I understand.

You still don’t.

Crawford on May 12, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Republican.

Remember.

Damp the hate-fires. Get even.

Tea Party, baby. Tea Party.

Run these RINO crimnals down to the Mexican border and slam the door.

moochy on May 12, 2011 at 11:51 AM

Let me get this straight – Comcast wanted to throttle a third-party’s access to its customers in its network. A third party it’s in competition with. And as I recall, Comcast was trying to recover costs associated with the traffic generated by Netflix.

Now do you see why we don’t need Net Neutrality? It’s the same old power-grab dressed up in high tech duds.

JeffWeimer on May 12, 2011 at 11:10 AM

What you are describing is Balkanization of the Internet. Comcast has a Government-enforced monopoly in many areas, and as part of said monopoly, Comcast is obligated to act in the public interest.

It would be one thing if Comcast were competing with many cable providers in a particular area, but it doesn’t — it has used an arrangement with government to block competitors from offering the same services Comcast offers in the areas it controls.

Cry me a river, but this is not free enterprise by any means. Comcast is a utility — and should be subject to the constraints placed upon any utility.

Comcast was not trying to recover costs associated with he traffic generated by Netflix — it was trying to restrain competition by denying its customers bandwidth they were paying for. It had already been paid at one endpoint for that putative bandwidth use by Level 3 Communications in its peering arrangement with same. It had already been paid on the other end by its service level agreements with its customers.

A utility deliberately slowing down or preventing the delivery of packets containing a putative competitor’s packets is definitely the kind of act which will totally dampen innovation on the Internet. A person developing a new protocol which competes with their ISP’s offerings can find themselves without service.

I’m sorry, but if Comcast wants to limit bandwidth to contracted values, it’s totally OK for it to do so — but for it to surcharge packets or suppress them completely based on content is a no-no in my book.

That’s why I favor the continuation of Net Neutrality.

unclesmrgol on May 12, 2011 at 11:58 AM

An issue right in Sarah Palin’s wheelhouse.

rrpjr on May 12, 2011 at 12:01 PM

You still don’t.

Crawford on May 12, 2011 at 11:43 AM

I think I do.

unclesmrgol on May 12, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Coincidence…

Khun Joe on May 12, 2011 at 12:23 PM

So it appears to have been approved on the merits.

BuzzCrutcher on May 12, 2011 at 10:38 AM

Now we know what the merits are.

jdkchem on May 12, 2011 at 12:48 PM

unclesmrgol on May 12, 2011 at 11:58 AM

And still there are greedy retards out there that will insist somebody is freeloading off of poor little comcast.

jdkchem on May 12, 2011 at 12:51 PM

What you are describing is Balkanization of the Internet. Comcast has a Government-enforced monopoly in many areas, and as part of said monopoly, Comcast is obligated to act in the public interest.

It would be one thing if Comcast were competing with many cable providers in a particular area, but it doesn’t — it has used an arrangement with government to block competitors from offering the same services Comcast offers in the areas it controls.

Cry me a river, but this is not free enterprise by any means. Comcast is a utility — and should be subject to the constraints placed upon any utility.

Comcast was not trying to recover costs associated with he traffic generated by Netflix — it was trying to restrain competition by denying its customers bandwidth they were paying for. It had already been paid at one endpoint for that putative bandwidth use by Level 3 Communications in its peering arrangement with same. It had already been paid on the other end by its service level agreements with its customers.

A utility deliberately slowing down or preventing the delivery of packets containing a putative competitor’s packets is definitely the kind of act which will totally dampen innovation on the Internet. A person developing a new protocol which competes with their ISP’s offerings can find themselves without service.

I’m sorry, but if Comcast wants to limit bandwidth to contracted values, it’s totally OK for it to do so — but for it to surcharge packets or suppress them completely based on content is a no-no in my book.

That’s why I favor the continuation of Net Neutrality.

unclesmrgol on May 12, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Thanks for your perspective.
I admit I do not know much about this.
You have educated me today.

Badger40 on May 12, 2011 at 2:11 PM