James P. Mooney, III
James P. Mooney, III, a former President of the National Cable Telecommunications Association (NCTA) credited as the industry's key player in the 1984 legislative effort to deregulate cable television, died on December 21, 2012 at his home on Bainbridge Island, Washington. He suffered from kidney cancer.
Mr. Mooney, then a senior U.S. House of Representatives aid, was hired in 1980 by the cable industry to secure a long-sought federal policy for cable, which up to that time was subject to a hodge-podge of rules issued by state and local authorities who regarded the new communications technology as much a golden goose as a television medium. Various powerful groups in Washington, including broadcasters, telephone companies, unions, and to some extent the motion picture industry, each opposed such legislation for their own reasons. Not surprisingly, the cable industry regarded itself as a developing national telecommunications medium, which should be regulated at the national level at the Federal Communications Commission, and subject only to such regulation which could be justified within the confines of its role as a television provider competing with other television media in the context of an exploding multimedia universe. Mr. Mooney developed a legislative strategy that contemplated Senate passage of a cable deregulation bill in the second session of the 98th Congress. He believed that if the Senate could be made comfortable with such legislation, it might be persuaded to pass the same bill in the beginning days of the succeeding Congress, and then reserve most of the remainder of the two year session for passage by the House, which he saw as a much more difficult environment for his industry.
The plan worked. After numerous stops and starts, and a blistering contest in the House, agreement on a cable bill was finally reached with the National League of Cities, and the bill went to President Reagan for his signature on October 11, 1984, in the closing hours of the 98th Congress.
Although Mr. Mooney was best known in Washington as head of NCTA, he previously had served for four years as chief of staff to the then Majority Whip, Rep. John Brademas (D-IN), during this period. He was a key player in many of the Carter Administration's legislative battles in the House, including the Chrysler bailout and the Panama Canal treaty.
James Pierce Mooney III was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, to James P. Mooney Jr. and Maria Antalek Mooney on May 28, 1943. When he was a child, the family moved to neighboring Tiverton, Rhode Island. His father died shortly after his fifteenth birthday, and Mr. Mooney went to work as a bus boy at the Stone Bridge Inn, an experience he later described as "one of the most important formative experiences of my life." The first of his immediate family to graduate from high school, Mr. Mooney continued to work at the Inn through college and law school. Following graduation from the University of Rhode Island, and the New York University
School of Law, Mr. Mooney worked for a few months as a substitute teacher at Tiverton High School, and then, as he described it, "packed all my earthly belongings into my Volkswagen, and went to Washington to help run the government." He obtained a position in the legislative office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and worked there for a year and a half . He got his big break, however, when Representative Brademas hired him as a legislative assistant in 1970; he moved swiftly to the top of the Congressman's staff, and when the latter became Majority Whip in 1976, moved with him to the celestial precincts of the Capital itself. When Mr. Brademas was defeated for reelection in 1980, then Speaker Thomas P. O'Neil Jr. offered Mr. Mooney a place on his staff, but advised him he would be better off to go to the world outside Congress. "Up here, it's all members and clerks," Mr. O'Neil told him. "If you stay here you'll be a very senior clerk, but still a clerk. Go somewhere where you can be your own man." Mr. Mooney took the advice.
Mr. Mooney's devotion to politics was lifelong. He had an even deeper interest, however, in history, and was well read in almost every period of American and European civilization. His home was crammed with books, all of which he had read, some several times over. He could be brusque; he frequently admonished staff who sought solely to justify a position based on the supposed horrible consequences that might follow in the absence of it being adopted, with the challenge, "so what!" He credited this admonition to his beloved college debate teacher, Agnes G. Doody, a colorful figure who reigned over forensics at the University of Rhode Island for over 40 years. Another of his favorites was the phrase "take yes for an answer," aimed at staff who continued to argue a case after it had been won.
In 1989, Mooney married Louise Rauscher. The couple had a child, James P. Mooney IV, in 1991. After he retired from NCTA in 1994, Mooney and his family moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington, where he and his wife would go on to found JLM Partners, a communications firm serving clients in consumer electronics, cable television, and the wireless industry worldwide. He decided to carry out his duties as the company's managing partner on the Island, so as to be readily available if young James needed him. In addition, Mooney earned a reputation for his poignant letters to the editor of the local newspaper, which addressed subjects ranging from the elementary school math curriculum to municipal politics.
He was highly respected by all who knew him, and deeply loved by his family who shall forever hold him in their hearts.