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Julius Genachowski Nominated as Next FCC Chairman

03/08/2009

On Tuesday, March 3, President Barack Obama nominated Julius Genachowski as FCC Chairman. Genachowski, 46, is a technology executive and a former classmate of Obama's from Harvard Law School. Upon Senate confirmation, Genachowski will replace Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps; Copps took over the Commission on January 22, 2009, two days after then-Chairman Kevin Martin resigned. Genachowski has been widely praised by industry executives and consumer-activist groups -- two groups often at odds -- for his wide-ranging experience and intimate knowledge of technology issues.

"I can think of no one better than Julius Genachowski to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission," said President Obama. "He will bring to the job diverse and unparalleled experience in communications and technology, with two decades of accomplishment in the private sector and public service. I know him as the son of immigrants who carries a deep appreciation for this country and the American dream; and as the proud father of three children working with his wife Rachel to be responsible parents in this digital age." 

According to the Wall Street Journal, speculation has been rife as to why President Obama had not put forth Genachowski's name before now, saying that "his nomination has centered on the administration's efforts to find at least one more nominee -- more likely two -- to fill other open spots on the FCC's five-person board. Agency nominations tend to move through the Senate more quickly if a Democratic nominee is paired with a Republican nominee."

The Wall Street Journal said that a number of Republicans -- including FCC Deputy General Counsel Ajit Pai -- have been mentioned as a possible replacement for the seat left vacant by Republican Deborah Taylor Tate when she left the Commission in January. "On the Democratic side, speculation is growing that FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein may not be renominated for the seat he currently holds. South Carolina public utilities commission official Mignon Clyburn (daughter of [Democrat Representative] Jim Clyburn) has been most often mentioned by people close to the Obama team as a candidate for that seat," the Journal reported. "Adelstein could be up for a job elsewhere in the Obama administration, insiders say, possible at the Agriculture Department, which is going to have $2.5 billion in economic stimulus money to give away for broadband infrastructure."

Acting Chairman Copps said President Obama "made an excellent choice in announcing his intent to nominate Julius Genachowski to be the next Chairman of the FCC. Julius has the knowledge, experience and dedication to lead this Agency forward as we tackle the many challenges confronting the country -- and the Commission. I look forward to the prospect of working with him on a communications agenda focused on serving consumers and the public interest. He will find here a talented and energized team of public servants committed to precisely this goal. I wish him a successful Senate confirmation."

Commissioner Adelstein also added his congratulations: "I warmly congratulate my friend Julius Genachowski on his nomination by President Barack Obama to be Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He is the right person at the right time for the job. His leadership, experience and intelligence will serve him and the American people well as he takes the helm of the FCC during this pivotal time for our country and the agency. By designating a Chairman with such a strong strategic vision, striking talents, wealth of experience inside and outside the Commission, and practical understanding of technology, President Obama once again demonstrates his commitment to the transformational power of communications technology and innovation."

Commissioner Robert McDowell congratulated Genachowski on his nomination, saying he "will bring a valuable perspective to the Commission with his experience not only in government, but in the private sector. I look forward to working closely with Mr Genachowski on the many important communications challenges that lie ahead for the American people."

Genachowski's Background

After graduating from law school, Genachowski clerked for federal judge Abner Mikva; he also clerked for Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Genachowski later served as chief counsel to Reed Hundt, chairman of the FCC from 1993-1997. After leaving the FCC, Genachowski was a senior executive at IAC/InterActiveCorp, Barry Diller's e-commerce and media company. He went on to found an investment and advisory firm for digital media companies and co-founded the country's first commercial "green" bank. According to Obama's campaign Web site, Genachowski raised at least $500,000 for Obama during the presidential election campaign.

Early in the Obama presidential campaign, Genachowski urged then-candidate Obama to capitalize on the organizing power of the Internet. The New York Times called Genachowski "a prolific fund-raiser and chairman of the campaign's group of technology-policy advisers, who produced a report advocating an open Internet, diversity in media ownership and a nationwide wireless system for emergency personnel." The Washington Post, which described Genachowski a "local venture capitalist," credited him with "spearheading Obama's online campaign strategy, which used social networking and other tools to spread Obama's campaign message and raise record campaign contributions."

Genachowski explained in his Obama campaign blog that he "was fortunate to chair the group that advised Senator Obama and the [Presidential] campaign on the tech & innovation plan, a large and hardworking group that generated terrific ideas, rooted in the great work that the Senator and his strong Senate staff have been doing in this area for quite some time."



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