The Examiner's Tim Carney confirmed that Salemme is advising the Obama transitition team on telecom policy, but his name is nowhere to be found on Change.Gov, Team Obama's official transition team's website. Obama's transition team did not return Carney's calls seeking comment on the obvious conflict of interest. Carney writes:
Clearwire’s executive vice president for “Strategy, Policy and External Affairs” is R. Gerard Salemme. Writer Julian Sanchez reported Wednesday on the website Ars Technica that Salemme is serving on the Obama transition team as a telecom advisor. Clearwire told this columnist that Salemme is on leave to help craft Obama’s telecom policy.
Clearwire provides infrastructure for Sprint’s wireless data network. In layman’s terms, Sprint pays Clearwire to connect your Blackberry to the Internet.
The fates of Sprint and Clearwire, as well as their competitors, particularly Verizon, are tied up with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) actions on digital television because wireless broadband (high-speed Internet over cell-phone signals, in effect) is tied up with the FCC’s actions on digital television . . .
After years of wrangling and negotiating, Congress and the FCC set February 17, 2009—between the Superbowl and the NCAA tournament—as the date for all TV broadcasting to switch to digital.
This will free up a huge swath of frequencies, which the FCC has auctioned off to other telecommunications firms. One buyer was Verizon, who will use this spectrum for its wireless broadband networks (again, providing Internet for Blackberries and similar devices).
Salemme, a former telecom lobbyist who has given thousands to Obama, including $5,000 to Obama’s transition team, has helped Obama craft a policy that will benefit Salemme’s company. This is just the sort of arrangement that led to years of Democratic outrage over the Bush administration’s energy policy.
Sanchez’s detailed and well-reported article on Ars Technica called to light these conflicts of interest—and the fact that Salemme’s name is nowhere to be found on Change.gov. As of yesterday, the Obama transition team still hadn’t addressed the concerns or added Salemme’s name. The transition team did not return a phone call or respond to an email request for comment from this author.
Almost unanimously, Capitol Hill staff and industry sources this week expressed certainly that Obama would get his way, meaning the long-scheduled transition would be delayed. While Obama proposes this delay as a boon to consumers, it’s hard to ignore that it provides a huge profit opportunity to one of his donors who secretly helped him craft the policy.
Carney aptly observes that this is "not a great beginning for transparency and ending corporate influence in Washington." You can bet Salemme will be rewarded by his employer for a job well done. Julian Sanchez has the details of Salemme's financial support for Obama at Ars Technica:
Enter Gerry Salemme. A telecom industry veteran; former lobbyist; and Clearwire executive vice president for strategy, policy, and external affairs, Salemme has also been a generous Obama supporter. Early in the primary season, Salemme gave the maximum $2,300 to Obama for America, and then in August threw in another $10,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that accepts large contributions and carves them up between the party and candidate. (An apparent typo in the OVF's FEC filing credits this donation to "R. Gerard Salemine." OpenSecrets shows the cash as split into $5,400 for the Democratic National Committee's Services Corporation and two contributions of $2,300 to Barack Obama, which on face would seem to exceed Salemme's cap for the primary and general combined.) Once the race to the White House was won, Salemme scrounged another $5,000 for the transition effort.