By Sara Jerome - 05/13/11 04:52 PM EDT
House members in both parties are concerned about the decision by FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker to leave the agency for Comcast/NBC Universal.
Baker's decision has prompted questions on whether she was considering that post while reviewing the Comcast merger, which she voted to approve. She has denied any overlap between the review and her discussions with Comcast, and has stated that she followed ethics rules.
The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has the development on its radar.
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), a member of the Energy and Commerce panel, says Congress needs more answers on the issue.
"There are a lot of questions. It just looks horrible. It looks really bad. I can't believe someone would be so blind to that perception," said Robert Kellar, Inslee's communications director.
He said Inslee will seek further answers, and will review the rules governing the "revolving door" between industry and government.
"When you have someone who was actively questioning the FCC timeline [for the merger] and speaking as an advocate for the merger, that raises even more questions," Kellar said. "She may have acted completely in the right, but being legal doesn't make it right."
He said it would not be enough to take Baker at her word that no wrongdoing occurred, and that investigations are warranted.
"It's just not passing the smell test," he said.
Critics have questioned the ethics of Baker's decision. "Americans don’t need any more reasons to mistrust Washington," The New York Times editorial board said Friday.
Baker, however, is adamant that she followed the rules. She said in a statement Friday that she sought counsel from the FCC general counsel's office throughout the process, and that the job became available to her after the end of the merger review.
Read her full statement below:
"I'm proud of my nearly eight years of government service, and especially my service as an FCC Commissioner under Chairman Genachowski's leadership. Until late this spring, my plan was to seek renomination for a second term as Commissioner. That was true all through the winter during consideration of the Comcast/NBCUniversal transaction and in the months after it was completed.
"Not once in my entire tenure as a Commissioner had anyone at Comcast or NBCUniversal approached me about potential employment. When this opportunity became available in mid-April, I made a personal decision that I wanted to give it serious consideration.
"Therefore, I immediately sought counsel from the General Counsel of the FCC, and recused myself on April 18th from any matters involving Comcast or NBCUniversal. I have not only complied with the legal and ethical laws, but I also have gone further. I have not participated or voted any item, not just those related to Comcast or NBCUniversal, since entering discussions about an offer of potential employment. Because of this, I plan to depart the Commission as soon as I am able to ensure an orderly wind-down of my office.
"I will of course comply with all government ethics and Obama pledge restrictions going forward. I am excited to embark on the next phase of my career and am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with great public servants at the FCC."