'DO NOT CALL' FTC CHAIRMAN TIM MURIS RESIGNS

White House Announces Replacement Before Resignation

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy Muris, whose push for do-not-call telemarketing restrictions drew heavy fire from marketers
Photo: AP
FTC Chairman Tim Muris is out.
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but much praise from consumer groups, is leaving and is being replaced with what could be a controversial choice.

White House move
The White House took the unusual step yesterday of announcing its intention to appoint Deborah P. Majoras as Mr. Muris' replacement before Mr. Muris had announced his resignation. Attorney General John Ashcroft praised Ms. Majoras "an outstanding lawyer" committed to "enforcing the antitrust laws."

Mr. Muris issued a statement last night, saying he planned to leave this summer. "Serving as Chairman of the Commission has been the greatest honor of my professional career," he said.

Mr. Muris, who became FTC chairman in June 2001, had worked for the FTC twice before, as assistant director of planning and later as the director of the bureau of consumer protection, the FTC's top staff post for consumer issues. In 1985, after leaving the FTC, Mr. Muris served in the Office of Management and Budget for three years. He subsequently joined George Mason University as a law professor.

No consumer background
Ms. Majoras has no similar consumer background but was principal deputy assistant attorney general for antitrust at the Justice Department during the term of former Assistant Attorney General Charles A. James, early in the Bush administration. While there she helped negotiate the Justice Department's settlement of the Microsoft Corp. antitrust case filed during the Clinton administration. She argued the case for the federal government during an appellate court hearing as some state attorneys general challenged the settlement.

As Mr. James' deputy, she also was in the midst of the biggest misstep of Mr. Muris' tenure -- a plan by Messrs. Muris and James to rewrite antitrust review responsibility that would have ceded antitrust review of media deals to the Justice Department while giving the FTC authority over health mergers.

Mass media mergers
The FTC had been skeptical of some planned mergers by large media companies, less so the Justice Department, and the proposed oversight plan, drawn up without congressional input, drew the ire of Sen. Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., and others before it was dropped. Mr. James exited in late 2002, and Ms. Majoras was a finalist for his post, which eventually went to R. Hewitt Pate.

The appointment needs confirmation from the Senate Commerce Committee, on which Mr. Hollings is the ranking Democratic senator. A spokesman for his office declined to comment last night.

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