November 8, 2005

Sen. Stevens says seeking new candidate for FCC

By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Commerce Committee
Chairman Ted Stevens said on Tuesday he is seeking another
candidate for the Bush administration to consider for a
Republican vacancy on the Federal Communications Commission.

The Alaska Republican ruled out his chief of staff as a
possible candidate for the FCC, which oversees and regulates
the media and communications industries. There has been a
vacancy since March when then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell
stepped down.

"I'm looking for a nominee and I hope to find one that
maybe they'll consider," he told reporters. "We haven't gotten
one yet."

Committee chief of staff Lisa Sutherland isn't a
possibility because she "doesn't want to leave," Stevens said.

The agency is split evenly with two Republican and two
Democrats, leading to some public and private criticism of the
White House for taking so long to fill the vacancy.

A second seat on the commission is expected to open up when
Republican Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy steps down later
this year. Her term has expired, but she can serve until
Congress adjourns this year.

In July, sources familiar with the selection process had
said the Bush administration was planning to nominate White
House technology adviser Richard Russell and Tennessee state
regulator Deborah Taylor Tate to the FCC.

The divided commission has somewhat complicated FCC
Chairman Kevin Martin's job and agenda. He has been unable to
reach agreement with the FCC Democrats to start a review of
media ownership limits.

Additionally, the divisions briefly delayed approval of the
two large telecommunications deals, SBC Communications Inc.'s
acquisition of AT&T Corp. and Verizon Communications purchase
of MCI Inc.

Stevens had previously pushed for his deputy staff director
Christine Kurth, but she withdrew because of potential
conflicts of interest. He had first recommended his former aide
Earl Comstock for the job, but Comstock withdrew after concerns
about a household employee's visa emerged.

Members nominated for the FCC positions must be confirmed
by the U.S. Senate. The agency is split 3-2 in favor of the
political party that occupies the White House.