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McDowell No-Show for Speech

No word at press time on why FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell pulled out of a planned speech to the Practicing Law Institute Friday.

Chairman Kevin Martin had spoken to the high-powered conference a day earlier.

McDowell's office had not returned several calls for comment, but he was also a no-show at the media ownership hearing in Nashville at the beginning of the week and was said  then to be working through the decision of whether or not to vote on ther merger of AT&T and Bell South, which Martin has been trying to vote on for months to no avail.

McDowell had been prevented from voting by ethics rules because his former employer, Comptel, had weighed in with concerns about the merger, but FCC General Counsel Sam Feder gave him the green light, saying the government's interest in breaking a two-two deadlock on the merger trumped any appearance of conflict.

But McDowell has not announced whether or not he will vote. While Martin is the one who asked Feder to check into whether or not he could un-recuse McDowell to break the tie, Hill Democrats preparing to take over key subcommittees next month were not happy and said McDowell should abstain.