A key Commerce Department official could face frequent conflict-of-interest issues because her office controls high-tech policies that affect a number of telecommunication and wireless firms for which she and her husband have worked.
As the new assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, Nancy J. Victory also serves as chief of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. NTIA is responsible for a number of key policy issues affecting telecommunications companies, including what is known as "spectrum management."
Meanwhile, her husband, Michael Senkowski, remains the lead telecom and Internet partner at Washingtons premier communications law and lobby firm, Wiley Rein & Fielding, where Victory was also a partner. Many of the firm's largest clients are keenly concerned with how the Bush administration chooses to address spectrum management issues.
According to a federal conflict-of-interest statute regarding personal financial interest for employees of the executive branch, an employee who "participates personally and substantially as a Government officer or employee" in a "particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he, his spouse, minor child, general partner . . . has a financial interest," can be subject to criminal penalties, says Title 18, U.S. Code, section 208.
There are a number of ways by which Victory or any political appointee can avoid such penalties, including making the government agency aware of personal financial interests and being cleared by the agency should those interests prove unlikely to affect the integrity of the person's decisions.
In addition, Senkowski, a member of the District of Columbia Bar, might violate conflict-of-interest rules set by the bar, as his and his firm's clients could be heavily affected by federal legislation on spectrum issues about which his wife will be advising.