Stevens Supports McDowell for FCC Post

Jan 24, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Robert McDowell, an industry attorney widely rumored to be under serious White House consideration to fill the fifth position at the Federal Communications Commission, has the backing of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the senator confirmed Tuesday during a briefing with reporters. “I’ve suggested him and I would support him,” Sen. Stevens said.

Mr. McDowell, a senior VP and assistant general counsel for the trade group CompTel, declined to comment.

Mr. McDowell has never worked for Sen. Stevens, unlike the previous two candidates the lawmaker has promoted for the FCC post during the past year. Sen. Stevens is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. But Mr. McDowell is said to be a friend of Earl Comstock, a former aide to Sen. Stevens who dropped out of the running for a Republican seat at the FCC last year. Mr. Comstock is CompTel’s president and CEO.

“If [Sen. Stevens] can’t get one of his guys, he gets one of his guy’s guys,” said an industry attorney.

Mr. McDowell was counsel to the Bush/Cheney Florida recount team in 2000 and led advance teams for the president and the first lady in 2004. If he were nominated and confirmed for the FCC post, he would give FCC Chairman Kevin Martin his third Republican vote at the agency, allowing him to command a majority.

The FCC has been deadlocked politically with two Republicans and two Democrats since Mr. Martin stepped in as chairman last March.

CompTel represents competitors to established telecommunications networks.

Also during the briefing, Sen. Stevens said he supports the cable TV industry’s argument that a la carte programming proposals, which would permit subscribers to pick and pay for only the cable TV networks they want, are anti-consumer.

“I really still believe a la carte goes too far and will impose too great a burden on the consumer eventually,” he said. “It will increase the cost to consumers, not decrease. I still support the family tier concept.”