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Berry to Head NCTA Government Office

Steven K. Berry -- a longtime Republican operative in the House, Senate and State Department who had a brush with political scandal a decade ago -- was named senior vice president of government relations for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association Monday.

Berry -- a 51-year-old lawyer and current senior VP of government affairs for the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association -- will begin work at the NCTA Jan. 2, reporting directly to president Robert Sachs.

Berry replaces Pamela Turner, who left the trade group last March to become assistant secretary for legislative affairs in the Department of Homeland Security under secretary Tom Ridge.

He could be a key Republican pipeline to Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other congressional Republicans who have grown increasingly concerned about cable pricing and packaging.

"Steve brings to the NCTA exceptional experience as both a representative of a well-respected trade association and senior staffer in Congress and the executive branch," Sachs said.

"As the telecommunications market grows more competitive and challenging, Steve's talents and knowledge will be vital to our continuing efforts to educate members of Congress and the administration about cable's commitment to quality, service and investment in new technologies," he added.

Berry was a close aide to Sen. Jesse Helms while the North Carolina conservative Republican headed the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations in the mid-1990s. Helms retired from politics in 2002.

According to an NCTA statement, Berry has been chief counsel and director of international operations and European affairs for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs for the U.S. State Department; Republican chief of staff for the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Republican counsel for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Late in 1992, while working at the State Department, Berry was involved in a scandal that erupted over the search of old passport records the department retained on then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee running against then-President George H.W. Bush.

State Department inspector general Sherman Funk found that Berry and other department officials used their position to find negative information about Clinton, who was coming under political fire on the campaign trail for trips he took as a student to the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. The Privacy Act prohibits disclosure of the State Department's passport files. Violations are a misdemeanor.

Funk's conclusions were based in part on notes taken by State Department operators who monitored Berry's calls.

But a judge ruled that the call monitoring was illegal and that independent counsel Joseph E. diGenova could not gain access to the operators' notes, according to the Washington Post. A source Monday disputed the Post's account, saying that diGenova did in fact gain access to the call records.

diGenova -- who spent a year investigating the matter -- refused to prosecute Berry. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit later awarded Berry $216,377 for legal fees. The court concluded that he was entitled to the money because he had been a target of the investigation but had not been charged with a crime. Berry also received a letter of exoneration and an apology from diGenova.

Berry is joining the cable industry as action on Capitol Hill is winding down for the year.

Cable's 2004 agenda is likely to focus on legislative efforts, if any, to require unbundling of cable programming into mini-tiers or a la carte offerings. Lawmakers are also likely to begin exploring possible regulatory burdens on cable companies that provide voice-over-Internet-protocol phone service.