President Obama Names Two Nominees for FCC Commissioner
President Barack Obama has nominated two new FCC Commissioners: Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Varadaraj Pai. Rosenworcel has been nominated to replace retiring Commissioner Michael Copps. President Obama selected Ajit Varadaraj Pai to fill the seat vacated by Meredith Attwell Baker, who left the FCC in June 2010. If Rosenworcel and Pai are confirmed by the Senate, the FCC would be at its full complement of five Commissioners.
The FCC has been down one commissioner since Baker’s departure, and Copps’ departure at the end of the year would leave the agency with only three commissioners: two Democrats and one Republican. Only three sitting Commissioners may be members of the same political party. At present, Chairman Julius Genachowski, Copps and Mignon Clyburn are Democrats. If confirmed, Pai will join Commissioner Robert McDowell as one of the two Republicans on the Commission.
Copps’ Confidential Assistant Carolyn Conyers told the ARRL that Copps’ term expired on June 30, 2010. “He is serving on what we call ‘extended time,’” she explained. “He will leave office when Congress comes back from recess, whenever that may be, or when the nominee has completed her confirmation process, whichever comes first. But it is doubtful that Jessica’s nomination process will be completed before the new year.”
Copps has served as a Commissioner since May 2001. In January 2009, he took on the additional role of acting FCC Chairman, following the resignation of then-FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin. Copps relinquished the chairmanship to Julius Genachowski after Genachowski was confirmed by the US Senate and sworn into office in June 2009.
In June 2011, Baker left the FCC to join Comcast as its Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, NBCUniversal. Baker was nominated by President Obama in June 2009 and sworn in five weeks later. She filled the unexpired term of fellow Republican and former FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, who resigned in January 2009; her term was to expire June 30, 2011.
“President Obama made two outstanding choices for the Commission and for the American people,” Chairman Genachowski said in a statement. “Given their talent, leadership and expertise in our space, they would both play an invaluable role at the FCC.”
Democrat Nominee Jessica Rosenworcel
Jessica Rosenworcel is the Senior Communications Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Since 2009, she has worked for Senator Jay Rockefeller IV (D-WV). Before that, she worked in the office of Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI).
Rosenworcel has a long history at the FCC. Before joining the Committee, she worked at the FCC from 1999-2007, serving as Legal Advisor, and then Senior Legal Advisor to Commissioner Copps, Legal Counsel to the Bureau Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau and as an Attorney-Advisor in the Policy Division of the Common Carrier Bureau (which became the Wireline Competition Bureau in 2002). From 1997-1999, Rosenworcel was a communications associate at Drinker Biddle and Reath. She received a BA from Wesleyan University and a JD from New York University School of Law.
“I know first-hand what a gifted public servant Jessica Rosenworcel is because she worked in my office in a number of capacities, including Senior Legal Adviser,” Copps said in a statement. “Her experiences here, combined with her current Congressional work, give her a perspective on telecom and media issues both wide and deep. Her dedication, intelligence and practical good judgment make her an ideal choice for Commissioner. As I look forward to completing my term here at the Commission, it is with great pride that I see a former colleague and member of my team nominated for this seat.”
Republican Nominee Ajit Varadaraj Pai
Ajit Varadaraj Pai is currently a partner in the Litigation Department of Jenner & Block LLP. Immediately prior to joining Jenner & Block, Pai worked in the FCC’s Office of the General Counsel, where he served as Deputy General Counsel, Associate General Counsel and Special Advisor to the General Counsel. Previously, he served as Chief Counsel to the US Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights, as well as Senior Counsel at the Office of Legal Policy at the US Department of Justice. Pai has also served as Deputy Chief Counsel to the US Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, and as Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications Inc.
Pai began his career as a law clerk to Judge Martin L.C. Feldman of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and then as an Honors Program trial attorney in the Telecommunications Task Force at the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. He holds a BA from Harvard University and a JD from the University of Chicago.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Ajit Pai while he served in the Commission’s Office of General Counsel," Copps said. "During that time, he provided valuable counsel on many of the complex matters coming before the Commission. Ajit’s experience, both at the agency and on Capitol Hill, prepares him well for the many urgent telecom and media challenges confronting the Commission.”