Sen. Lott to Retire by Year's End

Mississippi Republican: No Health Issues

Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi said Monday that he will leave the Senate by December.

Lott recently joined with Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to oppose Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin's timetable for a December vote on media-ownership-rule changes, picking up a thread from the FCC's 2003 attempt to deregulate media-ownership rules, when Lott also teamed up with Dorgan to oppose the changes.

Lott said it was time to do something else, and there were no health issues. He lost his leadership post in the Senate after controversial remarks about late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) in 2002.

Lott said the change in lobbying laws that kicks in in January and would prevent him from lobbying Congress for two years instead of the current one was not a factor, according to CNN. He also said he might want to teach, though he followed that with the joke that he had applied for the coaching job at the University of Mississippi.

But while Lott has been an opponent of consolidation and what he sees as a decline in localism, he is an old friend of former National Association of Broadcasters president Eddie Fritts -- both went to the University of Mississippi in the early 1960s.

Lott pushed in the mid-1990s for broadcasters to be given their digital-TV channels at a time when others on the Hill were calling for them to have to buy the channels at auction, calling it a gift of billions of dollars in spectrum.

Lott's election to speaker in 1996 was a reversal of fortune for broadcasters given his predecessor, former Sen. Bob Dole's (R-Kan.), opposition to what he called the "digital giveaway."