The Revolving Door

Friday, May 20, 2011


Last week, one of the FCC commissioners who voted in favor of the recent Comcast/NBC merger announced she was quitting her job for a new position—with Comcast. It's a clear conflict of interest. It's also not unique. Regulators routinely end up working in the industry they used to regulate. Washington Examiner columnist Timothy Carney says the media have a double standard when it comes to the revolving door between government and industry.

Comments [5]

Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

What is missed in the usual analyses is that there is a symbiotic relationship between regulators and the regulated. To properly 'regulate' any industry, and write rules for it, you have to know it through and through, or the companies in that industry will make mincemeat of your regulations. Carmakers or arbitragers or signal carriers know far more about their specialties than any Justice Department lawyer, Ivy League professor, or politically-appointed ex-Congressman. So the latter have to call in representatives of companies - and they will be the big companies - to write regulations that make any sense. Then, guess what, the big companies shape the rules to favor the bigger 'ins' and disadvantage the smaller 'outs'. Companies just factor the cost of compliance with rules into the cost of doing business, and it gets passed on to, you guessed it, the consumer.

The regulator is happy because he has 'done something'. His corporate allies are happy because they have protected themselves from competition. The consumer wonders why costs keep rising without improvements in overall quality. The problem here is the culture of 'regulation' in Washington. If their industries are hurt, so are the regulators, who are already 'employed', in a sense, by the companies they regulate. No industry, no need for its police.

May. 25 2011 05:45 PM
Josh Burnett from Tallahassee, FL

Carney said, "Bart Stupak was known as a pro-life Democrat, yet he put his stamp of approval on the bill." The implication, of course, being that being pro-life is fundamentally incompatible with voting for the bill. This is a smear that's been thoroughly discredited, yet Brooke failed to call him on it. The health care debate wasn't the focus of the interview, but come on: this sort of thing is just what you guys nail other media sources for.

May. 24 2011 07:53 PM
Pattie O'Donnell from United States

I understand this conservative's point of view on this specific issue, and agreed with both he and Gladstone about people of all political stripes monetizing their experience at the FCC (or Congress). But why the non-sequitur about Stupak voting for the health care plan "even though he claims to be pro-life". What? Making sure people can get health care isn't pro-life?

And also, he managed to get in all the right wing buzzwords - "Big Government" "free market" - even though it had little do with the topic. (What's a free market? I think it's something like a unicorn - frequently discussed and idolized, but not actually found in the real world)

May. 23 2011 01:03 PM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, Ca.

Mr Carney fails to make the distinction between one of thousands of bureaucrats, or one of several hundred House members, and one of five FCC commissioners. When there are many fewer making decisions, the incentive of a firm---and in this case, there was one, specific, firm that got what it wanted---to buy assent is much higher, so any appearance thereof should trigger alarm bells.

He also failed to note that the time-frame between the decision and the new job was so small as to itself suggest a quid pro quo were in effect.

That being so, I also condemn the revolving door even when it involves people who have been attempting to temper the power of the malefactors of great wealth---whom Mr Carney derides as 'big government' types---simply because it represents their neutralisation. (When the shills for gigantic private capital go private, I'm against it because it represents their empowerment and liberation from having to even _appear_ to act in the public interest.)

May. 22 2011 02:36 PM
Kevin Hopkins from Champaign, Illinois

What you failed to mention in your introduction of Timothy P. Carney is that he worked for Robert Novak. Just leaving it at the nondescript "Washington Examiner" might leave the listener with little more information than, "Oh he works in Washington somewhere and might know about politics and the FCC." Revealing he worked for Novak clarifies the point that he is an ideologue of the first order. One might suspect that from the way he dealt with the subject in the interview. It becomes crystal clear when you find out he was one of Novak's leg-men.

"Some say" it's not what they tell you but what they don't tell you that gets you in trouble. I expect better from you.

May. 22 2011 02:03 PM

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