Bush Picks Telecom Attorney for FCC Open Seat

President Bush chose telecommunications attorney and lobbyist Robert McDowell on Friday to take an open seat at the Federal Communications Commission, a move that would restore the agency's 3-2 GOP majority.

McDowell currently serves as senior vice president and assistant general counsel at CompTel, a trade organization representing phone carriers that compete with the regional Bell companies — Verizon, BellSouth, Qwest and AT&T.

The Senate would have to confirm the nomination.

McDowell would give FCC Chairman Kevin Martin a Republican majority at the agency — something he hasn't had since he was elevated to the post last March. Since then, the normally five-member commission has been evenly split 2-2, although it was briefly operating with only three members in December — when Martin was outnumbered by the two Democrats on the panel. The Democratic majority ended last month when Republican Deborah Tate was sworn in.

"He has a wealth of knowledge in the communications arena, and we will rely on his insight when evaluating the issues before us," Martin said of McDowell. "I look forward to working with a full complement of commissioners."

A third Republican vote would allow Martin to move forward with his agenda and tackle contentious issues like a review of media ownership rules.

The lack of a GOP majority proved troublesome for Martin last summer when the Republicans and Democrats on the panel couldn't agree on how to begin the process of considering new ownership rules. The issue was shelved minutes before it was slated to be discussed at a monthly FCC meeting.

McDowell would fill the seat vacated by GOP Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy last year. The term runs until June 2009.

Before joining CompTel in 1999, McDowell was executive vice president and general counsel for America's Carriers Telecommunications Association. He ran unsuccessfully in 2003 for the Virginia House of Delegates.