Red Light, Green Light

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Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell may wind up voting on the AT&T BellSouth merger afer all.

That is certainly FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's hope.

But the decision is not up to McDowell, or even to Martin. McDowell has not recused himself, but is instead by law barred from voting on a matter that involves his former employer–in this cast COMPTEL. The point is to avoid even the appearance of propriety.

McDowell likens it to sitting at a red light without control of when or whether it turns green.

That ban lasts a year, which means through June 2007. He may vote anyway, however, if the FCC's General Counsel clears him to, having concluded it was in the government's and public's interest for him to vote. There is precedent, though the specific facts differ considerably from an earlier unrecusal of Chairman Bill Kennard. That general counsel gree light is a possibility that Martin has recently explored to much blowback from Dems on the Hill.

Of course, McDowell does not have to move off the line even if the light does turn green. He could always abstain, but that is highly unlikely.

He has kept up with the case even though unofficially not participating, which would only be prudent if there is even a hint of a chance he could weigh in. I don't know if he was a Boy Scout, but he strikes me as a "be prepared" type of guy. And he is generally a fan of free-market fights with limited government refereeing.

By John Eggerton

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