Hollings Threatens FTC with Cuts

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Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) is threatening to cut political jobs and
salaries at the Federal Trade Commission unless the agency retreats from a
media-merger agreement with the Department of Justice.

Hollings is opposed to the plan, saying that the two agencies do not have the
legal authority to decide merger-review policies without the consent of
Congress.

'Actually, I am studying to see whether or not . we can cut the pay.
Sometimes when we cut pay, we get their final attention,' Hollings said at a
hearing Tuesday on the FTC's proposed fiscal-2003 budget of $176.5 million,
based on 1,074 full-time employees.

Hollings is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce,
Justice, State and Judiciary, a panel that has a large say in FTC funding and
staff levels.

FTC chairman Timothy Muris testified that the agreement allowing the DOJ's
antitrust division to review all media mergers would eliminate time-consuming
disputes over which agency would review specific media deals.

'I have watched the deterioration of the clearance process to where when I
arrived, we had a matter that had been going on for over a year,' said Muris,
who became chairman last year. 'I think it's better if we don't fight.'

But Hollings protested that in reaching the deal, the FTC and the DOJ relied
on advice from private parties, including AOL Time Warner Inc. outside counsel
Joe Sims, Muris' former law partner.

'That's just outrageous,' Hollings said. 'That's totally improper.'

Hollings warned that if the agreement is not dropped, he would also look at
eliminating political appointees at the FTC.

'We will act accordingly, I can tell you that, if you folks go forward with
the so-called memorandum of understanding,' he added.

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