James P. Mooney, Ex-NCTA Chief, Dies

James P. Mooney, a former President of the National Cable Telecommunications Association (NCTA) credited as the industry’s key player in the 1984 legislative effort to deregulate cable television, died on Dec. 21, 2012 at his home on Bainbridge Island, Wash. He suffered from kidney cancer.

He was due to be inducted in the Cable Television Hall of Fame this coming June.

Mr. Mooney, then a senior U.S. House of Representatives aid, was hired in 1980 by the cable industry to secure a long-sought federal policy for cable, which up to that time was subject to a hodge-podge of rules issued by state and local authorities who regarded the new communications technology as much a golden goose as a television medium. Various powerful groups in Washington, including broadcasters, telephone companies, unions, and to some extent the motion picture industry, each opposed such legislation for their own reasons. The principal opposition to cable, however, was led by the National League of Cities, whose members saw themselves not only as the logical regulators of cable, but also as the beneficiaries of various concessions which could be wrung from cable operators as a condition of being allowed to build and operate their systems. The city of Sacramento, for example, demanded that any cable operator to which it granted an operating license, known as a franchise, install 20,000 trees on the streets of the city as a precondition to being granted a franchise. Not surprisingly, the cable industry regarded itself as a developing national telecommunications medium, which should be regulated at the national level at the Federal Communications Commission, and subject only to such regulation which could be justified within the confines of its role as a televisionprovider competing with other televisionmedia in the context of an exploding multimedia universe. Mr. Mooney developed a legislative strategy which contemplated Senate passage of a cable deregulation bill in the second session of the ______ Congress. He believed that if the Senate could be made comfortable with such legislation, it might be persuaded to pass the same bill in the beginning days of the succeeding ____ Congress, and then reserve most of the remainder of the two year session for passage by the House, which he saw as a much more difficult environment for his industry.

The plan worked. After numerous stops and starts, and a blistering contest in the House, agreement on a cable bill was finally reached with the National League of Cities, and the bill went to President Reagan for his signature on October _______, 1984, in the closing hours of the ____ Congress. [NEED DATE THE BILL CLEARED THE HOUSE].

Although Mr. Mooney was best known in Washington as head of NCTA, he previously had served for four years as chief of staff to the then Majority Whip, Rep. John Brademas (D-IN), during this period. He was a key player in many of the Carter Administration’s legislative battles in the House, including the Chrysler bailout and the Panama Canal treaty. [FIND INFO RE THE POST-SECONDARY EDUC ACT OF 1972]


James Pierce Mooney III was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, to James P. Mooney Jr. and Maria Antalek Mooney on May 28, 1943.  When he was a child, the family moved to neighboring Tiverton, Rhode Island. His father died shortly after his fifteenth birthday, and Mr. Mooney went to work as a bus boy at the Stone Bridge Inn, an experience he later described as “one of the most important formative experiences of my life.” The first of his immediate family to graduate from high school, Mr. Mooney continued to work at the Inn through college and law school. Following graduation from the University of Rhode Island, and the New York University School of Law, Mr. Mooney worked for a few months as a substitute teacher at Tiverton High School, and then, as he described it, “packed all my earthly belongings into my Volkswagen, and went to Washington to help run the government.” Upon arriving in the capital city, he quickly discovered that without contacts, his job prospects were poor. He obtained a position in the legislative office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, however, and worked there for a year and a half on ill-fated legislation to give the agency the same regulatory powers as enjoyed by other “ABC” agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission. He got his big break, however, when Representative Brademas hired him as a legislative assistant in 1970; he moved swiftly to the top of the Congressman’s staff, and when the latter became Majority Whip in 1976, moved with him to the celestial precincts of the Capital itself. When Mr. Brademas was defeated for reelection in 1980, then Speaker Thomas P. O’Neil Jr. offered Mr. Mooney a place on his staff, but advised him he would be better off to go to the world outside Congress. “Up here, it’s all members and clerks,” Mr. O’Neil told him. “If you stay here you’ll be a very senior clerk, but still a clerk. Go somewhere where you can be your own man.” Mr. Mooney took the advice. [what then?]

Mr. Mooney’s devotion to politics was lifelong. He had an even deeper interest, however, in history, and was well-read in almost every period of American and European civilization. His home was crammed with books, all of which he had read, some several times over. He could be brusque; he frequently admonished staff who sought solely to justify a position based on the supposed horrible consequences that might follow in the absence of it being adopted, with the challenge, “so what!” He credited this admonition to his beloved college debate teacher, Agnes G. Doody, a colorful figure who reigned over forensics at the University of Rhode Island for over 40 years. Another of his favorites was the phrase “take yes for an answer,” aimed at staff who continued to argue a case after it had been won.

Other things to include:

Married Louise Rauscher in 1989

Couple had a child, James P. Mooney IV, in 1991

They left the capital and moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington (state) in 1994

Together, the Mooneys founded JLM Partners, a public relations firm, in 1998, which Louise runs to this day.

Jim had an office on the island – his wife worked in Seattle – so he could be close by in case young Jimmy needed anything.

Mooney was an advocate for changing the Bainbridge Island municipal government from a mayor-run body to a council-manager system, a position which was approved overwhelmingly by Bainbridge voters

Many in the community looked forward to his pithy letters to the editor on subjects ranging from the math curriculum in the Bainbridge elementary schools to local politics

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.