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FTC nomination goes to Senate

The Senate Commerce Committee approves Sheila Foster Anthony's nomination to the Federal Trade Commission.

    The Senate Commerce Committee today approved Sheila Foster Anthony's nomination to the Federal Trade Commission.

    Now Anthony has to gain confirmation by the full Senate before she can take her seat at the trade agency.

    A seasoned intellectual property and telecommunications attorney known for her expertise on international issues, Anthony served as head of the Office of Legislative Affairs for the Justice Department. There, she lobbied Congress on behalf of the department. She also has been an attorney with the Washington law firm Dow, Lohnes & Albertson.

    The FTC has played a major role in regulating fair business practices in cyberspace, cracking down on deceptive online advertising and stopping Net scams. Over the past two years, the agency also has investigated the online collection of surfers' personal data, as well as high-tech mergers and acquisitions, such as those made recently by Intel and Microsoft.

    Last month, the FTC's most techno-savvy commissioner, Christine Varney, stepped down to start an Internet practice group for the Washington law firm Hogan & Hartson.

    A member of the Clinton administration, Anthony is the wife of former Arkansas Congressman Beryl Anthony, as well as the sister of the late Vincent Foster, who was the White House's deputy counsel.

    "My message is simply this: If confirmed, I look forward to working with you to implement the FTC's antitrust and consumer protection responsibilities, and I pledge that I will be fair, open-minded, and to do my best to render just decisions," Anthony said today in her opening statements at the Senate committee.

    She also thanked the two Arkansas senators, Democrat Dale Bumpers and Republican Tim Hutchinson, who endorsed her nomination before the committee today.

    In January, Clinton nominated Anthony to replace FTC commissioner Janet Steiger, an appointee of President George Bush.

    Varney praised Anthony's nomination when it was announced earlier this year.

    "As we move into the information age, global competition will hinge more and more on firms' intellectual property assets," Varney said today. "Sheila brings a crucial, essential understanding of these intellectual property issues to the FTC."

    FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky told CNET's NEWS.COM in past interviews that Anthony will be well received by the commission. "More of our issues concern international transactions now, which include the Internet," he said. "I don't how tech-savvy [Anthony] is, but you can't be here now without knowing about the high-tech industry and the Internet."

    Varney is confident that Anthony can maintain the FTC's momentum to protect consumers' online privacy and bust spammers who send fraudulent messages, for example. Anthony also understands the importance of business competition, she added.

    "She's a Clinton Democrat too. We think business and government ought to be partners," Varney said. "When there are ways to achieve business objectives that are consistent with antitrust laws, I'm sure she'll be looking for them, as well as blocking mergers that create unfair competition."

    Others hope Anthony will help the FTC in its investigations of business practices in the offline world. "The FTC has an enormous job ahead in regard to the tobacco settlement and the commission's vital oversight responsibilities," Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) said today in a statement. "I hope that Anthony works diligently to minimize advertising of tobacco products directed at America's youth."