Tristani departing FCC next week

Democratic FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani announced Monday she will resign from the commission Sept. 7.

Tristani did not announces her plans but is widely expected to return to home state New Mexico and seek her party's nomination to run against Republican Sen. Pete Domenici. Leading candidates to take her seat, which is slated for a Democrat, include Andrew Levin, aide to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and former TCI and AT&T Broadband lobbyist David Krone. Some Washington sources predict, however, President Bush will select a Democrat not on Beltway insiders' list, perhaps a conservative Democrat from Texas.

Tristani's battle to unseat the powerful five-term senator and chairman of the Budget Committee is considered a long shot, but she is said to have grown weary of fighting in vain against the FCC's deregulatory tide and she has repeatedly expressed an interest in elected office.

Tristani has been one of the commission's most liberal members during her nearly four-year stint and was a vociferous critic of media consolidation and an equally fierce advocate for children's television. Of late her pet issue has been pushing for tougher FCC investigation of complaints about broadcast indecency. Tristani made few friends among industry lobbyists, who were put off by her reluctance to court industry input on key FCC votes.

Tristani was confirmed to her post in Nov. 1997 and her current term would have expired 2003. Prior to joining the commission she served on the New Mexico State Corporation Commission.

Tristani's departure is being lamented by public advocacy groups. "Commissioner Tristani has consistently supported the interests of the public--the people that actually watch the programming, pay the monthly cable bills, and rely on the media's role to provide democratic discourse," said Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy. "Most FCC chairs and commissioners focus more of their attention on pleasing corporate lobbyists or appeasing other political interests."
- Bill McConnell