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Bush sends FCC nominations to Senate

Two Republicans and a Democrat are expected to join Chairman Michael Powell in an agency facelift.

    WASHINGTON--President Bush will nominate three new members to the Federal Communications Commission, spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters Friday.

    The nominees, two Republicans and a Democrat, will be sent to the Senate for confirmation. The two Republicans are presidential adviser Kevin Martin and Washington telecommunications attorney Kathleen Abernathy. The Democratic nomination will be former Capitol Hill staff member Michael Copps.

    The FCC has been in a holding pattern since Michael Powell became chairman earlier this year. Former Chairman William Kennard resigned in mid-January, and Republican Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth and Democratic Commissioner Susan Ness said they would leave as soon as replacements were confirmed.

    Powell said that "each of the three nominees...if confirmed by the Senate, will bring important experience and expertise to the Commission."

    Abernathy is vice president of public policy for Broadband Office in Falls Church, Va., a competitive local exchange carrier. She has worked as an attorney for Washington law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer and for AirTouch Communications. Her term will expire in June 2005.

    Martin was the deputy transition counsel for the Bush-Cheney transition team and is an attorney with well-regarded communications law firm Wiley, Rein and Fielding in Washington. The law firm, which recently claimed a victory when the AOL Time Warner merger was approved, is led by former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley. Martin also once served as a legal aide to Furchtgott-Roth.

    "Kevin served with distinction on my staff," Furchtgott-Roth said in a statement. "His first-hand experiences inside the commission, keen intellect, good humor, and strong commitment to public life will serve him well." Martin's term will expire in June 2006.

    Copps, the Democrat, served the last two years of President Clinton's second term as assistant secretary for trade development at the Department of Commerce. Before that he was a senior aide to the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, Ernest Hollings of South Carolina.

    Hollings has pushed aggressively for Copps' appointment to one of the FCC's two Democratic posts, and all three nominations will appear before the Senate Commerce Committee chaired by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Copps' term will expire in June 2004.

    Many expect a second Democratic nomination at some point to replace Commissioner Gloria Tristani. She told a home-state newspaper that she intended to return to New Mexico to re-enter state politics, and many expect a run for governor. But unlike her colleagues, she has not formally announced her departure.

    If she does so, many expect that Democratic seat to go to Andy Levin, a telecommunications counsel to John Dingell, the top Democrat on the House Commerce Committee. Were Tristani to leave, Powell would be the only survivor from the Kennard era.

    House Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., said that "all three of the nominees have impeccable credentials and fully understand the important role telecommunications plays in our global economy," adding that he plans to meet with each of them soon.