FCC Rejects Request For Public Disclosure When Employees Seek Outside Jobs
November 1, 2011 at 3:56 AM (PT)
The FCC has rejected the request by the group PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE that the Commission make public when its employees are negotiating for jobs with private companies. The request stemmed from Commissioner MEREDITH ATTWELL BAKER's move to COMCAST's NBCUNIVERSAL earlier this year.
THE HILL reports that the Commission's General Counsel AUSTIN SCHLICK sent a letter to the group saying, "Because recusal statements are now voluntary under government-wide ethics rules, release of such statements could deter their submission -- a negative effect that generally would outweigh the benefits of disclosure. In the case of requests for access to recusal statements covering entities with which a former FCC employee actually accepted employment, however, the balance tips in favor of disclosure and access will be granted."
PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE Legal Dir. HAROLD FELD, in a statement issued by the group, said, "At a time when public confidence in government is at a low ebb, and when the OBAMA Administration has promised high levels of transparency, it is disappointing that the (FCC) would shield from the public potential transitions of Commission staff to private industry. It is even more disappointing that the Commission did not even attempt to craft a solution to balance the privacy concerns of employees against the public perception of perpetual revolving doors at regulatory agencies. It could have put the issue out for comment to consider possible remedies to bolster public confidence in the agency. The FCC has the authority to do so, but chose not to.
"While we recognize the need for privacy, we also recognize the need for the public to be aware of the extent to which regulators may be seeking or discussing employment with companies they regulate. There seemed to be no lack of job opportunities for staff when the agency made voluntary recusals public in the past, and we see no harm in continuing that policy or some variation of it."