Sen. James DeMint (R-S.C.), who was in the conversation for chair of the Senate Commerce Committee if the Republicans had taken back control of that body, will resign next month to head conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, his office announced Thursday. His term was not up until 2016.
"I'm leaving the Senate now, but I'm not leaving the fight," he said in a statement. "I've decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas. No organization is better equipped to lead this fight and I believe my experience in public office as well as in the private sector as a business owner will help Heritage become even more effective in the years to come.
Broadcasters won't be shedding many tears, though cable operators are losing a champion on the issues of network neutrality and control over their own networks.
DeMint, ranking member of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, has been a big backer of sweeping telecom deregulation, including scrapping the retrans regime.
A bill he co-sponsored in 2011 would:
- Repeal those provisions of the Communications Act that mandate the carriage and purchase of certain broadcast signals by cable operators, satellite providers, and their customers.
- Repeal the Communications Act's "retransmission consent" provisions and the Copyright Act's "compulsory license" provisions, thereby allowing negotiations for the carriage of broadcast stations to take place in the same deregulated environment as negotiations for carriage of non-broadcast channels such as Discovery, Food Network and AMC.
- Repeal ownership limitations imposed on local media operators, allowing businesses to evolve and adapt to today's dynamic communications market.
While broadcasters would like to see local caps go away, they were not ready to trade retrans for the privilege.
DeMint has long wanted to curb FCC authority over competition policy, and tried to create hurdles to the FCC's network neutrality regs.