TR Daily Rosenworcel, Starks, Clyburn Seen as Possible FCC Chairman Candidates if Biden Wins
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Friday, October 23, 2020

Rosenworcel, Starks, Clyburn Seen as Possible FCC Chairman Candidates if Biden Wins

Democratic FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks and former acting FCC Chairman Mignon Clyburn are seen by a number of Commission observers as likely candidates to take over the agency as Chairman if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins the Nov. 3 election.

If President Trump wins a second term, Commissioner Brendan Carr could land the job, assuming Chairman Ajit Pai leaves the agency, which many expect him to do, the observers suggest.

However, observers are quick to point out that other people could easily become contenders for the top FCC job if either Messrs. Biden or Trump prevail.

The offices of Ms. Rosenworcel and Mr. Starks declined to comment and Mr. Carr’s office and Ms. Clyburn did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Biden is leading in national polls and in most key battleground states.

"Jessica is lobbying the Senate Dems hard, but Joe Biden has a half-century of friends to reward and she is not a Biden person," one FCC observer told TR Daily. "That said, let’s not underestimate Jessica."

The source also said that Mr. Starks could also be a candidate given, among other things, his relationship with Travis LeBlanc, former chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, where Mr. Starks worked before becoming a Commissioner. Mr. LeBlanc was a senior adviser to Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Mr. Biden’s running mate, when she was the attorney general of California. Mr. Starks was supported by the Congressional Black Caucus in his nomination to the Commission.

Ms. Clyburn was an FCC Commissioner from 2009 to 2018 and served as acting Chairman between the time Julius Genachowski left the agency in May 2013 (TR Daily, May 17, 2013) and Tom Wheeler’s swearing in that November (TR Daily, Nov. 4, 2013). She is the first woman to serve as Chairman.

Ms. Clyburn’s father, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.) is a key ally of Mr. Biden’s who aided his crucial primary win in South Carolina at a time when his campaign seemed on the brink of collapsing.

Ms. Clyburn "can have any job she wants in a Biden Administration including FCC Chair," suggested one observer. "The question is what will she want."

Another source said of Ms. Clyburn, who is president of MLC Strategies, a consulting firm, "It’s not clear that she wants it."

Another source speculated that Larry Strickling, policy coordinator for Biden’s campaign and a former National Telecommunications and Information Administration head, could be in the running for the FCC Chairman’s job if Mr. Biden wins.

If Mr. Trump wins, a number of observers suggested that Mr. Carr seems like the top Chairman candidate, assuming that Mr. Pai leaves the agency. Fellow Republican Mike O’Rielly saw his nomination for another term pulled by the White House in August (TR Daily, Aug. 3). Sources have said that the action was taken because of comments that Mr. O’Rielly made that officials saw as critical of Mr. Trump’s section 230 Communications Decency Act executive order (TR Daily, May 28). Mr. Carr has been outspoken in supporting FCC action on section 230 reform.

President Trump has nominated Nathan A. Simington, a senior NTIA adviser, for the seat being vacated by Mr. O’Rielly (TR Daily, Sept. 16), but it’s unclear if he will get through the Senate before Congress adjourns.

"Brendan is certainly campaigning hard for the job," said one observer. "But I don’t know anyone who can actually predict what Trump will do."

"He’s not a lock, but he’s got sort of the inside track," another source said of Mr. Carr. His support for the section 230 order "gives him a considerable leg up. … But there’s always a possibility that an outside candidate emerges."

If Mr. Trump wins and Mr. Simington is confirmed, other candidates to fill the remaining GOP seat could include Crystal Tully, deputy staff director of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; Kelsey Guyselman, deputy policy director for the Senate Commerce Committee; or Grace Koh, vice president-legislative affairs for Nokia who led the U.S. delegation to the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19); has served as special assistant to the president-technology, telecom, and cybersecurity policy; and has been deputy chief counsel for the House communications technology subcommittee, a source suggested.

Possible candidates to fill another Democratic Commissioner seat include John Branscome, staff director of the Senate communications, technology, innovation, and the Internet subcommittee and an FCC veteran; and Clint Odom, a former FCC and Hill staffer, including as legislative director to Sen. Harris, policy director for Ms. Rosenworcel, and legal adviser to FCC Chairman William Kennard, the source said. Mr. Odom is now senior vice president-policy and advocacy for the National Urban League and executive director of its Washington Bureau. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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