Powell or Tristani May Head FCC


No matter what happens in November, the Federal Communications Commission will likely get a facelift soon after the election.

Rumors abound that FCC Chairman William Kennard is itching to hit the private sector. But he might not have a choice.

A victorious George W. Bush would no doubt appoint a Republican to chair the FCC. The most likely candidate could be Commissioner C. Michael Powell, son of retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell. After all, the elder Powell headed the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the elder George Bush, when he was president.

That means the younger Powell and younger Bush would have a similar relationship-except for the part about planning wars together.

If Gore won the White House, things could get sketchier still. He could certainly keep Kennard on board, if he wants to stay. Or he could appoint a new chair.

The buzz in Washington-gleaned from the usual raft of unnamed and unreliable sources-is that Commissioner Gloria Tristani could find her way into the chairman's seat.

Why? Because Tristani has paid her dues, agreeing to stay at the FCC rather than run for office in New Mexico, against the wishes of the party machine.

"She definitely has a consumer orientation," said Larry Roberts, a partner at the Washington law firm of Davis, Wright & Tremaine. "If she got the chairmanship and she had the votes under her control, you could expect an expansion of FCC oversight of the cable industry."

All parties have been mum on the Tristani rumors, although Kennard has since said he has no plans to leave before his term is up. Of course, in Washington, plans are never final.