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FCC declines to disclose when employees are in job talks with outside groups

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The letter was in response to FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker taking a job with Comcast after voting in favor of Comcast's merger with NBC-Universal. She said the company only approached her about a job after she voted on the merger.  

Although employees can voluntarily submit recusal statements to the agency, the letters are not currently released to the public.

On Friday, the FCC declined Public Knowledge's request.

"Because recusal statements are now voluntary under government-wide ethics rules, release of such statements could deter their submission — a negative effect that generally would outweigh the benefits of disclosure," wrote Austin Schlick, the FCC's general counsel. "In the case of requests for access to recusal statements covering entities with which a former FCC employee actually accepted employment, however, the balance tips in favor of disclosure and access will be granted."

Public Knowledge criticized the decision. 

“At a time when public confidence in government is at a low ebb, and when the Obama Administration has promised high levels of transparency, it is disappointing that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would shield from the public potential transitions of Commission staff to private industry," Harold Feld, Public Knowledge's legal director, said in a statement. 

“While we recognize the need for privacy, we also recognize the need for the public to be aware of the extent to which regulators may be seeking or discussing employment with companies they regulate."