Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein’s confirmation last week for a new term at the agency could force his GOP colleagues at the FCC to stay put indefinitely-whether they want to or not.
That was one of the apparent political ramifications to the resurrection of Mr. Adelstein’s bureaucratic career, according to key industry and FCC sources.
If Mr. Adelstein, a Democrat, had been forced out, as was widely expected, FCC Chairman Michael Powell would have had a 3-1 Republican majority at the agency, giving him or one of the other two GOP commissioners the leeway to step down without losing control.
Rumors have circulated periodically during the past two years, including in recent weeks, that Mr. Powell intends to resign. But he has consistently maintained that he is not planning an imminent departure.
With Mr. Adelstein’s confirmation, all three of the FCC’s Republican commissioners must stay put or surrender their majority, creating the possibility of 2-2 partisan deadlocks.
Without the confirmation, Mr. Adelstein would have had to step down from the agency when Congress officially adjourns for the year because his previous term has already expired.
But with a push from his former boss, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Mr. Adelstein won a renomination from President Bush for a new term good through June 30, 2008.
His nomination was confirmed in one of the final acts of the Senate during its post-election lame-duck session last week.
Mr. Adelstein, 42, is best known for the role he played with fellow FCC Democrat Michael Copps in attempting to derail an effort by the FCC’s Republican majority to relax agency media ownership prohibitions.
“This is great news for opponents of [media] consolidation,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog group Center for Digital Democracy.
Mr. Adelstein’s renomination had the support of key Senate Republicans with rural constituencies, including Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., sources said.