FCC Commissioner who approved NBC merger joins Comcast

Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fryer.

Meredith Attwell Baker, the now ex-FCC Commissioner, resigned her position for a more lucrative spot at cable TV provider Comcast. Starting in June, Baker will take over as the company’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. It’s the equivalent of switching from defense to offense: instead of making choices on how to best regulate media, she will now act as a liaison between government and business.

The Texas native’s new job won’t move her too far from her former FCC office; both are based in Washington, D.C. And that may be the problem, say critics.

FCC Commissioner who approved NBC merger joins Comcast

NationalJournal points out that Baker is disallowed from lobbying her former co-workers for the next couple years. However, she is more than welcome to do so with Congress. That fact has led to speculation on the ethical implications of lobbying government after you’ve worked for government.

Baker had a direct hand in approving the NBC Universal, Comcast merger earlier this year (.pdf). Her sudden departure leaves ample room for accusations.

Craig Aaron, the CEO and President of non-profit pro-media reform organization Free Press, launched a scathing indictment of Baker’s career change, calling it both “blatant” and a “cash-in.”

“As recently as March, Commissioner Baker gave a speech lamenting that review of the Comcast-NBC deal ‘took too long,’ said Aaron. “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.”

He added: “The continuously revolving door at the FCC continues to erode any prospects for good public policy.”

That “revolving door” extends beyond the FCC. Career leaps for government employees into corporate positions (and vice versa) is certainly nothing new. In April, former RIAA lawyer Katherine B. Forrest was recommended for judgeship. And before Christopher Dodd took over as MPAA chief, he was the distinguished gentleman representing Connecticut.

“I’ve been privileged to serve in government for the past seven years under President Obama at the FCC and President Bush at NTIA,” said Baker in a Comcast press release. “I’m excited to embark on a new phase of my career with Comcast and NBCUniversal.”

Baker’s new bosses seem thrilled, too.

Kyle McSlarrow, NBC Universal/Comcast President, said “Meredith’s executive branch and business experience along with her exceptional relationships in Washington bring Comcast and NBCUniversal the perfect combination of skills.”

Rick Cotton, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the company, said, “I’ve seen Meredith’s mastery of issues up close as we’ve worked together on issues at the FCC and NTIA. She understands the issues both domestic and international facing Comcast and NBCUniversal and will be a great addition to our team as we build the new NBCUniversal for the digital future.”

Baker’s replacement has yet to be nominated by President Obama. (Via TechDirt)