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Chong has inside track to pick up GOP FCC seat

Rachelle Chong, a communications attorney from San Francisco, has emerged as the odds-on favorite to become President Clinton’s pick to fill the vacant Republican seat on the Federal Communications Commission.

That’s the word from industry and congressional sources in D.C., who said Chong has moved to the top of a short list of potential GOP candidates.

Chong, 34, is a partner in the Bay Area law firm Graham & James, where she practices telecommunications law and public utility law. She is a member of the Federal Communications Bar Assn. and the Asian American Bar Assn.

Sources said Chong was recently given the green light from Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) after an interview with Dole’s staff. Dole’s support is important, since any Republican named by Clinton will likely have the blessing of the GOP leader.

If Chong indeed is the Republican candidate, that could hasten full-Senate confirmation of Reed Hundt to become chairman of the FCC. Hundt’s confirmation has been blocked for weeks by Dole and other Senate Republicans angry over what they see as the White House’s slow pace in filling GOP slots at key government agencies.

The White House is said to be anxious to have Hundt confirmed before Congress breaks next week for its Christmas recess. Otherwise, interim FCC chairman James Quello would remain head of the agency until late January or early February.

The vacant GOP seat at the FCC has been unfilled since the departure of Sherrie Marshall early this year. Other potential GOP candidates for the agency include Vermont public TV exec Hope Green and Joan Smith of the Oregon Public Utility Commission. However, reports have circulated that Green and Smith were unacceptable to Dole.

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