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FCC candidate cashed in on license challenge

A leading candidate to succeed Al Sikes as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission pocketed $ 500,000 in 1988 after withdrawing a license challenge to WGMS-FM, Washington.

Toni Cook, the senior legal counsel to the Senate communications subcommittee , did nothing wrong in accepting what was then a legal payment, per FCC sources.

However, the FCC subsequently changed its rules to limit excessive payments in cases that involved challenges to existing broadcast licensees.

The D.C. station was owned by RKO General, which spent two decades battling an FCC effort to force the company to shed its broadcast holdings after it was found to have violated commission rules.

Cook helped form a partnership to challenge RKO for the right to run the station. Her company, along with a number of other companies who filed petitions at the FCC in a bid to win the station license, agreed to drop their claims after being paid $ 10.4 million. Cook earned about $500,000 from the settlement.

Cook, a Democrat, has been mentioned frequently as a candidate for the top FCC post in a Clinton administration. It’s unclear whether the revelation of the $ 500,000 payment will damage her chances at gaining the nomination.

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