Clinton taps antitrust lawyer as key regulator

President Clinton ended months of speculation Tuesday by nominating Reed E. Hundt, a D.C.-based antitrust lawyer and old college chum, to become chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Hundt, whose nomination the White House confirmed late Tuesday, had been touted as principal candidate for the post since the unexpected withdrawal from consideration last month of Toni Cook, chief counsel of the Senate communications subcommittee. Cook had been all but appointed to the position when she opted out for personal reasons.

Hundt, 45, is a partner with the firm of Latham & Watkins, where he specializes in antitrust litigation and First Amendment issues. He is also experienced in corporate and tax law. He joined the firm in 1975.

Although not well known in communications circles, he has experience in industry matters. For example, his firm represented Ted Turner in his unsuccessful attempt to take over CBS and he has advised the wireless cable industry and Hughes Communications in their cable access efforts.

Hundt’s varied legal skills will assuredly serve him well in the rapidly changing telecommunications landscape, which is certain to produce even greater combinations of common carrier, programming and communications services.

He must be confirmed by the Senate, although little if any opposition is expected.

Politically, he’s as connected as they come. Hundt was a classmate of Clinton’s at Yale Law School and has even closer ties with Vice President Al Gore. He and Gore have been pals since attending St. Albans Academy, a private high school in D.C. In fact, it was Gore who selected Hundt for the post.

He is a member of numerous federal and state bars and has been married since 1980 to the former Elizabeth Ann Katz. They have three children.

Republican staffer

The White House was also expected Tuesday to nominate Regina Keeney, a Republican staffer for the Senate communications subcommittee, to another vacancy on the five-member commission. That announcement was not made, although insiders say Keeney is still the front-runner for the post. She enjoys the backing of Sen. John Danforth (D-Mo.), ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The Hundt appointment means commissioner James Quello, who has served as interim chairman at the request of President Clinton, will return to the commish role he’s held for the past 19 years. Democrat Quello did not seek the post full time.

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