Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Mehlman Nomination

May 16, 2001. The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Bruce Mehlman to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy. His hearing went smoothly. He said little.

OTP. The Department of Commerce describes the role of the Office of Technology Policy (OTP) as follows: "to work in partnership with the private sector to develop and advocate national policies and initiatives that maximize technology's contribution to U.S. economic growth". The OTP conducts no licensing. It has no rule making or adjudicatory authority. It does not hand out grants. It does not administer programs. Essentially, it studies and advocates.

Mehlman Biography. Until recently, Mehlman was Telecommunications Policy Counsel for Cisco Systems. Before that, he worked as General Counsel and Policy Director to the House Republican Conference, which is headed by Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK). He worked on Y2K and other high tech issues. He also previously worked as Legal Counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee (RNCC), where he specialized in compliance with the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations, and other political issues.

Bruce Mehlman is also another former associate of the law firm of Wiley Rein & Fielding to be named to top technology posts this year. Others include Kevin Martin and Brian Tramont. Martin, one of President Bush's nominees for FCC Commissioner, has his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee today. Tramont was appointed Chief of Staff of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau last week.

Views on Privacy. Sen. McCain asked Mehlman about his views on online privacy. Mehlman stated, "I probably can't come here today with the silver bullet solution". However, he promised to cooperate with the Congress, industry and consumer representatives.

Internet Taxes. Sen. George Allen (R-VA) asked him about Internet taxation. Mehlman said "I think the voice that has been heard across the Congress and the industry, we want to go slow with this new very promising medium, and not rush into taxation until the impact (inaudible phrase) has been the right approach."

Intellectual Property. Sen. Allen also asked him about his role in the protection of intellectual property of American companies abroad. Mehlman said that "the protection of intellectual property rights is essential to promote the creative process and make investments in a lot of technology and a lot of innovation worthwhile. At the same time, online media present new challenges."

See also, TLJ story, "Cisco Lobbyist Addresses High Tech Policy Issues", Oct. 20, 2000.