Ajit Pai becomes latest ex-FCC chairman to join a private equity firm

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Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said he will join a private equity firm — becoming the fourth of the last eight top US communications regulators to do so.

Searchlight Capital Partners announced on Monday that Pai will become a partner at the firm and a prospective board member for some of the companies in which it has invested. The firm’s investments include Spanish-language broadcaster Univision and telecom service provider Mitel.

“I am excited to join the Searchlight team and help build on the firm’s demonstrated success in the technology media, and telecommunications sectors, especially with respect to digital infrastructure,” said Pai, who was former President Trump’s FCC Chairman from January 2017 to January 2021.

Since 2001, former FCC Chairman William Kennard joined the Carlyle Group; Michael Powell went to Providence Equity Partners; Julius Genachowski to Carlyle and now Pai to Searchlight.

Former FCC Chairman Michael Copps found the news disappointing. He said commissioners tend to be more sympathetic to private equity firms and corporations when they are commissioners if they know that they might also, one day, become their future employers.

“We have a serious revolving door problem at the FCC,” Copps told The Post. “This is not encouraging.”

Private equity firms often put too much debt on media companies and do not have the public interest in mind, according to Copps. He raised the present example of Alden Global Capital buying up many of the country’s newspapers and firing reporters.

Two of the four FCC chairs who joined private equity firms since 2001 were Democrats and two Republicans so the revolving door is not about party affiliation, he said.

“I want the general audience to know the phenomenon of the open door of government. It is widespread, not partisan and it is a public interest issue.”

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