PSC chief denies report that he's in line for federal post Magazine said Frisby could take seat on FCC

November 26, 1996|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

The chairman of Maryland's Public Service Commission says he's not going to Washington, despite a published report suggesting he might be up for a seat on the Federal Communications Commission.

PSC chief H. Russell Frisby Jr. said he has not been contacted about a seat on the commission, on which up to four of the five seats could become available by next year. He said a report in Broadcasting & Cable magazine earlier this month floating several state commissioners' names as FCC candidates was the first he had heard of any pending promotions.

"It was a classic Washington rumor-mill piece," said Frisby, a Baltimore lawyer who became chairman of the PSC last year. "I've had no discussions with anyone. If I were being seriously considered I would expect to have heard from the White House, and I haven't."

Nonetheless, the trade journal's report was enough to get Annapolis' rumor mill buzzing. Adding to the report's surface credibility was the fact that FCC Chairman Reed E. Hundt and Frisby attended Yale Law School at the same time.

"I knew a face," Frisby said, explaining that he was acquainted with Hundt when the FCC chairman was a year ahead of Frisby in school. But he said he is not an old law school best buddy of Hundt, who was Vice President Al Gore's college roommate.

Detracting from the report's plausibility was the fact that Frisby, like phone regulators in more than half the states, intervened on the side of local phone companies in a court action to overturn the FCC's rules implementing this year's federal telecommunications act.

The Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings issuing an injunction against enforcement of many of the rules.

The lower courts said the rules appeared to claim for the FCC authority that legally belongs to state regulators.

A source close to Hundt said he has not heard Frisby's name discussed among the people who are likely to fill the open seats on the commission.

One seat is currently vacant, but President Clinton has nominated Regina Keeney, staff chief of the FCC's common carrier bureau, which regulates phone companies, to fill that seat.

The former Republican congressional staffer is still awaiting Senate confirmation.

Also, Commissioner Rachelle Chong, another Republican, has said she will leave the FCC when her term expires in June.

By law, no more than three members of the FCC can come from one political party, so in most cases the sitting president's party has three representatives and the other party has two. Frisby, a Democrat, would be unlikely to be nominated to replace Chong.

Pub Date: 11/26/96

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