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Rush passed over; media reformers applaud

Media reform advocates have been bitterly disappointed by recent actions by the FCC on net neutrality and the Comcast-NBC merger, viewing them as betrayals of earlier promises by President Obama to maintain an open internet and fight media consolidation.

The appointment of former AT&T president and chief lobbyist Bill Daley as chief of staff has also been taken as a big win for  the telecommunications industry.

But today reformers are claiming a victory – albeit on a somewhat less weighty matter – as House Democratic leadership passed over Rep. Bobby Rush to select Rep. Anna Eshoo of California as ranking member of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Rush was passed over despite his greater seniority after the African-American online activist group Color of Change mobilized members to oppose his candidacy.

The group pointed to Rush’s close relationship to the telecom industry – including  $1 million donated from SBC/AT&T to a charity he’d founded. The  support ran from 2001 to 2004 – roughly the period that Daley served as president of the corporation.

AT&T is the second largest contributor to Rush over his career, and Verizon and the National Cable and Television Association are major contributors, according to Wired.

Among COC’s complaints was Rush’s co-sponsorship with Republican leaders of a telecom bill in 2006 to help cable companies sidestep local franchising – and his opposition of a net neutrality amendment to the bill offered by Rep. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who previously chaired the communications subcommittee.

“This is a big moment for the open internet and for political accountability,” said James Rucker of Color of Change in a release.

“With House Republicans already lining up to attack net neutrality, we needed a strong leader on open internet issues – which we got with Rep. Eshoo,” Rucker said. “Congressman Rush’s position on net neutrality didn’t serve the public.”

With over 800,000 members, Color of Change reports that 16,000 signatures signed a petition opposing Rush and hundreds of members placed phone calls to House leaders.

Rucker also charged Rush with “practically unrestricted support” for the Comcast-NUBC merger.  That merger will hit Chicago particularly hard, as Newstips detailed last year.

In 2006 Newstips reported that media reformers called on Rush to abstain on votes impacting AT&T.

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