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Telephone regulator drops bid for commission seat

January 23, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Communications Commission’s top telephone regulator dropped out of the running Wednesday for a seat on the five-member commission.

Gina Keeney said she notified the White House she is no longer interested in the post, citing personal reasons.

``It was a very hard decision, but my family has to come first. To sign up for three more years as commissioner was just too much,″ she told The Associated Press.

As chief of the FCC’s Common Carrier Bureau, Keeney was a key author of controversial rules implementing a law enacted last February to open the $100 billion annual local phone business to competition.

The regulations have been attacked by local phone companies, members of Congress and some states and were suspended by an appeals court in St. Louis. Appeals are pending.

Kenney was nominated by President Clinton last August for one of two seats designated to be held by a Republican. The seat became empty when Commissioner Andrew Barrett left in March after his term expired.

By June, two other FCC seats _ one Democrat and one Republican _ may become open. Commissioner James Quello, whose term had already expired, said he’ll step down then. And Commissioner Rachelle Chong’s term expires at the end of June. The agency must have at least three commissioners to vote on items.

Communications attorneys, speaking on condition of anonymity, had predicted that Kenney, if she had been renominated, would not have won confirmation because of her role in the local phone regulations.

Keeney wouldn’t say whether the White House had talked to her about a renomination. ``This was my decision,″ she said. ``I don’t feel comfortable speaking about my discussions with the White House.″

Her initial nomination was backed by prominent Republicans including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and John McCain, now chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Prior to joining the FCC in 1994, Keeney had spent nine years as the GOP counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee, the same panel that would have been in charge of handling her nomination.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, she is married and has two daughters.

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