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Who Will Bag Sachs' Job?

In the next few weeks, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association is expected to name a new president to succeed Robert Sachs.

NCTA appears to be going for well-connected former lawmakers or senior-level administration aides with close ties to the White House.

NCTA is looking for a well-connected Washington chief whose administration and Capitol Hill contacts can equal the Bell companies’ U.S. Telecom Association next year when Congress begins rewriting the telecommunications laws.

The post is one of the most lucrative in Washington. Sachs’ $1.2 million annual salary is second among media-related posts—it’s only topped by the $1.3 million that was being pulled down by the retiring Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Regional phone companies say they are unfairly saddled with regulations that force them to open up their networks to rival carriers and want Congress to get rid of those burdens or make sure cable operators that get into the phone business are equally burdened.

Already scratched off the NCTA short list are Verizon lobbyist Tom Tauke, who rebuffed an NCTA invite to apply for the job, and Disney lobbyist Mitch Rose.

Others apparently out are former Pentagon (and NCTA) spokeswoman Torie Clarke and FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy. Clarke has said she doesn’t want the job and Abernathy is likely to be tied up at the FCC longer than NCTA can wait. Although a dark-horse candidate can’t be ruled out, three names still in the hunt:

Phillip Bond, undersecretary for technology, Deptartment of Commerce. An ex-chief of staff to former Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Bond worked as Defense Dept. aide to current Vice President Dick Cheney during early 90s and has Capitol Hill contacts from days as congressional staffer and Defense Department lobbyist. At Commerce,Bond’s portfolio includes telecom but also science and space policy.

Michael Gallagher, chief of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the White House's chief telecommunications policy adviser. A former Washington state lobbyist for Verizon Wireless, and D.C. lobbyist for AirTouch Comm., Gallagher also served as an aide to Rep. Rick White, R-Wash. Also in the running for an FCC seat if a GOP slot opens. He’s Bond’s junior at Commerce, but more focused on telecom.

Rep. George Nethercutt, Washington congressman. Became a GOP hero in 1994 by unseating Rep. Tom Foley, the first sitting House speaker to be defeated since 1860; ex-aide to Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, incoming chairman of the Commerce Committee, the main panel overseeing telecom issues.

Hiring the former Washington state lawmaker would follow trend set by the Motion Picture Association of America and other top trade groups in hiring ex-lawmakers to represent them in the nation’s capital; Nethercutt also has been awarded “Hero of the Taxpayer” by Americans for Tax Reform, a group headed by activist Grover Norquist, founder of GOP’s K St. Project, an initiative to push trade groups’ hiring of Republican lobbyists.