Sunday, March 23, 2008

John McCain's FCC Letter was a "Purple Cow"

Joshua Green's McCain's Purple Cow in The Atlantic is a solid examination of St. John's rather bold actions on behalf of Paxson Communications. I've posted before on his relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman and once again I'll state that I don't care if their contact had a sexual facet. Why Senator McCain wrote the FCC Commissioners for Bud Paxson might have been for rides on his jet or his generous contributions or ... rather than attentions from his lobbyist.

Here's a critical portion:

Most of the letters the FCC receives are not acted on. McCain’s letters were. So the first thing that should stand out about the Paxson case is not the FCC’s eventual ruling but the fact that McCain sent six letters and wrote to each of the commissioners individually (this is unusual) demanding immediate action.

The second thing that was unusual was the legal situation. Paxson was asking the FCC to allow an educational license to be purchased by a commercial interest. The FCC had never allowed such a deal.

The third thing that should stand out is the unusual breakdown of how the FCC voted. Susan Ness, a Democratic commissioner, took the rare step of breaking with her fellow Democrats and voting with the Republican commissioners to approve the Paxson deal.

Mr. Green ends with
The point is not that what McCain did in the Paxson case was scandalous or illegal. But he clearly intervened in the regulatory process by using the full weight of his political capital to take something that had been stuck at the bottom of the pile and move it to the top. In the same way, politicians use to earmarks to ensure that whatever bridge, road, study or other projects they favor get special treatment. At a fundamental philosophical level, McCain’s regulatory earmark does not differ meaningfully from the earmarking he has spent a career railing against. The Times did not sufficiently nail the sex angle to make it an issue in the presidential race. But in the long run, piercing McCain’s image as a principled reformer could wind up being more damaging.
Amen! Yet I'm figuring the free ride will continue for St. John. John Gunn

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