Jumped or pushed, Wheeler falls down the memory hole

22 January 2017 by Steve Blum
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It seems the finger was loaded.

Friday was a holiday for federal employees in the Washington, DC area, but even so, someone was busy updating the Federal Communications Commission’s website. Tom Wheeler, the former chairman of the FCC, is now an unperson, “vaporised” and “effectively erased from existence”, as the Ministry of Truth would describe it. If the Ministry of Truth was actually in the business of describing anything.

As of today, the commission’s leadership page lists only three commissioners – Mignon Clyburn, Michael O’Rielly and caudillo-in-waiting Ajit Pai – and makes no mention of a chair, past, present or future. An org chart dated yesterday but actually posted on Friday shows the same, rump line-up.

Presumably, Wheeler formally submitted his resignation as a commissioner when The Donald was sworn in. At least that’s what he promised to do. If the website was updated by FCC employees, it’s a very safe bet he’s actually done it – career civil servants are not in the habit of deleting political appointees without a clear paper trail.

On the other hand, if the Trump transition’s landing team put on their ninja suits and scurried about changing the locks and hanging new presidential portraits at FCC headquarters, they might also have hacked the website as a preemptive strike to ensure Wheeler’s departure. But, yeah, I doubt that happened.

So the working assumption is that there are two empty slots on the commission, and the chair’s job is vacant as well.

By law, there can be no more than three republicans (or democrats) on the commission at any one time, so the way is clear to pair up a nominee from each party and submit their names to the senate for confirmation. Obama renominated Jessica Rosenworcel, after Wheeler’s refusal to step down sooner blew her chances for confirmation last year, but Trump can name another democrat if he chooses.