Sen. Trent Lott's (R-Miss.) move to torpedo Jonathan Adelstein's Federal Communications Commission nomination was unrelated to the controversy over a new federal judgeship for a Lott ally, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said last week.
"That was done far in advance of this," Hatch said March 17 on the CBS program Face the Nation
. "Sen. Lott does not feel that person is qualified for that job and I heard that before this came up."
The 39-year-old Adelstein is a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). President Bush intends to nominate Adelstein to fill a Democratic vacancy at the FCC, but the Senate had not yet received the nominating papers, a Daschle aide said two weeks ago.
Lott said he would try to block Adelstein after Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats rejected U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Pickering and Lott are old friends and Pickering's son, Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), worked in Lott's Senate office.
Lott told reporters he felt that Adelstein was too young and inexperienced for the FCC post, but a Daschle aide noted that Adelstein is older than FCC chairman Michael Powell, who turned 39 on March 23, and FCC commissioner Kevin Martin, 35 — both Republicans appointed by Bush.
Lott was quoted in The New York Times
as saying that Adelstein also lacked the "education experience" to serve at the FCC.
According to Daschle's office, Adelstein received undergraduate and business degrees from Stanford University and studied public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He was also a teaching fellow at both Stanford and Harvard.
"I think it's very unfortunate," Daschle said in a separate appearance on Face the Nation.
"Jonathan Adelstein had nothing to do with the Pickering nomination, so to lash at him is an unfortunate set of circumstances that I hope will cause Sen. Lott to reconsider."
But Lott has thrown his support behind Andy Levin, a telecom aide to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). Levin had pulled himself out of the running for the FCC job when it became evident that Daschle intended to support Adelstein.
"Sen. Lott supports this individual because he has the experience and qualifications with telecom issues and other issues that would come before the FCC," Lott spokesman Ron Bonjean said.