Democrats Reed Hundt and William Kennard — successive chiefs of the Federal Communications Commission under President Clinton — were early supporters of Sen. Barack Obama’s quest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination over Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Now, Hundt and Kennard are making public appearances in which they are openly attacking Obama’s presumptive Republican rival Sen. John McCain as a merger-lovin’ shill for telecom lobbyists who never passed an important piece of legislation while chairman of the Commerce Committee from 1997 to 2001.
Unfortunately, Hundt and Kennard seem to have lost touch with some of the facts.
Hundt got the not-so-straight-talk express rolling in a June 10 debate with former Republican FCC chairman Michael Powell, a McCain supporter. Hundt leaned in and demanded, “Can you name one merger, since 1996, that John McCain has opposed?” Hundt’s point: McCain has bear-hugged every telecom deal because he won’t stand up to lobbyists financing Senate Republicans’ campaigns.
McCain, the only Senate Republican to vote against the Telecommunications Act of 1996 because he thought it gave too much power to Hundt and Kennard, has, in fact, spoken out about consolidation among communications providers.
In April 1999, Reuters reported that McCain slammed AT&T’s $58 billion takeover of cable operator MediaOne Group.
“This is the obvious result of a [telecommunications] act that was designed to protect special interests and neglected the consumer,” McCain told the news service. “If you can’t compete, buy your opponents.”
Meanwhile, BusinessWeek reported Hundt hailed AT&T’s second big cable company purchase in less than a year.
“AT&T is putting its money where the government has asked the bets be placed,” Hundt told the magazine 17 months after leaving office.
Kennard’s case of amnesia on McCain’s record was just as bad.
“I’m hard-pressed to think of one significant legislative achievement in the [telecom] sector that was championed and was implemented by John McCain during his leadership on the Commerce Committee, because there isn’t,” Kennard said at a June 25 forum held by the Media Access Project.
Amazingly, Kennard overlooked McCain’s key role in passing the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999. That law allowed DirecTV and Dish Network to offer local TV signals in every market for the first time in history, igniting competition with cable.
When McCain’s bill became law, satellite TV had 8 million subscribers. Today, they serve 30 million.