Obama to name congressman's daughter to FCC

McClatchyApril 30, 2009 

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to nominate House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's daughter to a seat on the Federal Communications Commission, a powerful agency that regulates issues ranging from TV profanity to broadband Internet access.

Mignon Clyburn, the eldest of the South Carolina Democrat's three daughters, is a Charleston native who has served on the South Carolina Public Service Commission since 1998.

Obama's promotion of Jim Clyburn's daughter — which the Senate must confirm — would further strengthen the president's relationship with a key congressional ally who helped move his $787 billion economic-stimulus plan quickly through the House in February.

"She is very competent and accomplished, someone of whom I am very proud," the congressman said.

Aides to Clyburn said he had not spoken with Obama about the FCC post for his daughter.

Mignon Clyburn, who holds a University of South Carolina undergraduate degree in banking, declined to comment.

Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, stayed neutral in South Carolina's key Democratic presidential primary in January 2008.

Clyburn, though, later backed Obama over then-Sen. Hillary Clinton , helping sway other "super-delegates" to the party's nominating convention. Clyburn has since developed a close relationship with Obama and several of his top aides.

A senior Obama administration official said Thursday that the president's relationship with Jim Clyburn was a factor in his choice of Mignon Clyburn as an FCC commissioner, but that her more than decade-long experience as a state utilities regulator was decisive.

Among other responsibilities, the S.C. Public Service Commission sets utility rates and grants operating permits to power plants.

Mignon Clyburn's pending FCC nomination continues a tradition of presidents giving executive posts to relatives of powerful South Carolina politicians.

President George W. Bush chose Strom Thurmond Jr., son of the late U.S. senator, as U.S. attorney for the state in 2001.

Bush also picked former S.C. House Speaker David Wilkins, the brother of federal appellate Judge William "Billy" Wilkins, to be U.S. ambassador to Canada in 2005.

The current U.S. attorney, Walter Wilkins, is the nephew of David Wilkins. He was named by Bush last year to the post.

If confirmed, Mignon Clyburn would get the new, third, Democratic seat on the FCC. The position pays $153,200 a year.

Congressional aides said Clyburn's formal nomination could be delayed by a dispute between powerful Republican senators.

Under federal telecommunications law, three FCC commissioners can belong to the president's political party, while the other two commissioners must be members of the opposition party.

Though Obama formally nominates all FCC commissioners, the law thus limits him to naming three fellow Democrats to the oversight agency.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, senior Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, are pushing different candidates to fill one of two open GOP slots on the FCC.

By Senate tradition, Democratic and Republican nominees move forward in tandem, so Obama may wait to forward Mignon Clyburn's name to the Senate until the Republicans have settled on their preferred candidate.

Obama would name Mignon Clyburn to fill the remaining partial terms of two Republican appointees of President George W. Bush who left the FCC after Obama's election.

If Obama names Clyburn to succeed Kevin Martin, Clyburn would serve through June 30, 2011, when she'd become eligible for appointment to a full, five-year term.

Clyburn would serve until June 30, 2012 if Obama chooses her to fill the FCC slot left open by the departure of Deborah Tate.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, both of South Carolina, declined Thursday to commit to voting for Mignon Clyburn's confirmation.

DeMint sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, which will hold confirmation hearings.

"We look forward to discussions with Ms. Clyburn," said Wesley Denton, a DeMint spokesman.

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