It's fair to say that media and the public have responded with disgust to news that FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker had cut short her public duties to lobby for Comcast, the company whose takeover of NBC Universal she had just approved.
Baker's Comcast dash raised the eyebrows of even the most seasoned Beltway insiders -- including those who tend to see public-sector service as the farm league for "K" Street jobs.
But the criticism hasn't been limited to one bureaucrat's shameless decision to abandon her 2009 oath to serve the American people. Baker's move may become the tipping point for new rules to stop Washington's revolving door from tempting any bureaucrat to exchange a light regulatory hand for the promise of a high-salaried job.
The New York Times has called on Congress to pass stronger measures to prevent government employees from jumping ship so soon; more than 55,000 people have already written the chair of the House Oversight Committee demanding action.
Can you blame people for being so angry? With public trust in government at a 30-year low, its time Washington recognized that "business as usual" isn't good enough.
Follows is a survey of prevailing opinion:
The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 14:
"There's something particularly unsettling about a regulatory official who voted only four months ago to approve the $13.75 billion merger of Comcast and NBCUniversal turning around to take a high-profile job with that firm... [T]he move threatens to further undermine public confidence in the government's ability to make objective decisions that put ordinary citizens' interests first."TIME Magazine, May 13:
"The revolving door has spun in exactly the way that people outside the beltway have long feared it would. And it happened without any rules being broken. Baker may not have known that NBC-Universal or Comcast would be offering her a job when she argued on their behalf. But everyone in town knows that if you stand up for wealthy interests while serving the public interest, chances are there is a nice fat paycheck waiting for you somewhere when you choose to leave government."The Seattle Times, May 13:
"Unseemly does not begin to describe Baker's actions. Even the most jaundiced critic of the FCC should be taken aback by the Republican commissioner's new job and the blink of time between her vote and her announcement. Factor in the time consumed by the hiring process, which apparently began last month, and it's even worse. It is actions like Baker's that turn people against government."The New York Times, May 12:
"Congress should expand the definition of lobbying beyond face-to-face encounters to any effort to influence government decisions for their clients. It should also set tight caps on what former officials, including former lawmakers, can earn from lobbying before they must register as lobbyists. Americans don't need any more reasons to mistrust Washington."Rolling Stone, May 12:
"Rarely are revolving-door stories this revolting. Just months ago Meredith Attwell Baker voted -- as a commissioner on the FCC -- to approve Comcast's controversial merger NBC Universal. Baker is now taking a job as a senior vice president in Comcast's lobbying shop in Washington. 'No wonder the public is so nauseated by business as usual in Washington,' said Craig Aaron, chief executive of media watchdog Free Press."Wired, May 11:
"The revolving door between the public-private sector is now so taken for granted that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski applauded the move... 'I wish her well in her new role at NBC Universal,' Genachowski said in a statement, hours after Baker announced she was 'privileged to have had the opportunity to serve the country.' What's more revolting, Baker's move or Genachowski's reaction? Let us know."