President Trump nominates Geoffrey Starks to FCC

Assistant FCC Bureau Chief Geoffrey Starks has been nominated by Trump to succeed Mignon Clyburn as FCC Commissioner. (LinkedIn)

The White House said President Trump has nominated Geoffrey Starks to the FCC. If confirmed by the Senate, Starks will fill the seat left vacant by Mignon Clyburn, who recently stepped down after eight years with the agency.

Starks is currently an assistant bureau chief at the FCC's enforcement bureau, where much of his work has involved the administration of rules related to the Universal Service Fund. 

A graduate of both Harvard and Yale, Starks has an impressive resume that includes stints at Goldman Sachs, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and at law firm Williams & Connolly, where Starks says he successfully conducted salary arbitration for a Major League Baseball player. More recently, Starks was senior counsel at the office of the Deputy Attorney General within the U.S. Justice Department, before becoming one of three assistant bureau chiefs (PDF) at the FCC's enforcement bureau. 

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Starks is a Democrat, so if he becomes an FCC commissioner, the agency will again be led by two Democrats and three Republicans. That was the make-up of its leadership for the first year of the Trump presidency, until Democrat Mignon Clyburn announced her intention to step down. Now that Clyburn is gone, Jessica Rosenworcel is the lone Democrat on the commission. Rosenworcel has been an avid supporter of net neutrality and of using the Lifeline program to extend broadband to low-income Americans. Starks' position on these issues is not yet clear.

Traditionally, the U.S. president permits the minority party to select up to two FCC commissioners, so when Clyburn resigned the task of identifying a replacement fell to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Almost three months ago, Washington news sources started reporting that Schumer was eyeing Starks. 

Starks' background at the Justice Department could be helpful to the FCC at this time. Increasingly, the agency finds itself involved in issues that are also under consideration at the Justice Department.

Multibillion-dollar media and telecom mergers are just one example. FCC commissioners are also impacted by the discussions around Chinese telecom equipment suppliers and national security. Starks advised the Deputy Attorney General on national security matters, according to his resume. 

Starks is not the only nominee to the FCC who will face Senate confirmation this year. Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr must also be confirmed by the Senate in order to remain in his position. Carr was nominated and confirmed to fill the seat vacated by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who left after the 2016 presidential election. Ajit Pai, who was already a commissioner, assumed the chairmanship and Carr filled the open spot on the Commission. Wheeler's term would have ended in June 2018, so Trump has nominated Carr to serve for another five years.