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Pickering Passes on CTIA Job, Will Remain in House

Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) has turned down a million-dollar job as head of the wireless industry’s Washington trade association in order to remain in the House, where he is considered the heir apparent to his political mentor, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

“I am staying in Congress and will continue to serve the people of the Third Congressional District of Mississippi,” Pickering said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “Today I feel a calling to public service and am withdrawing my name from consideration of the [Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association] position.”

Pickering, one month shy of his 40th birthday, told Roll Call last week that he was considering leaving the House in the middle of his fourth term in order to accept a job as president of CTIA.

Though he admitted he wants to be a Senator some day, Pickering was worried about providing for his five young sons, ages 4 to 13, on his $154,000-a-year Congressional salary.

“This past week, my family and I did feel an obligation to have a serious discussion about my having the opportunity to lead the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, and to consider the impact of that on our five boys,” Pickering said.

Thomas Wheeler, the departing head of CTIA, earns about $1 million a year in salary and other compensation, making him one of the best-paid trade association lobbyists in town.

By staying in the House, Pickering remains well-positioned to run for the Senate in 2006 if Lott retires, as expected, at the end of his third term.

Mississippi’s other Senator, 65-year-old Republican Thad Cochran, is up for re-election in 2008, but by then he likely will be chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee and intent on maximizing his time atop the panel.

By staying in the House, Pickering is unlikely to draw a serious opponent until he runs for the Senate.

A savvy lawmaker and well-heeled candidate, Pickering won his most recent re-election campaign, against fellow Rep. Ronnie Shows (D). by a surprising 29 points after spending $2 million on a television advertising campaign.

Unlike many of his colleagues, however, Pickering does not come from deep pockets. His most recent financial statement shows that he has little money in the bank — making the well-paying position with CTIA all the more tempting.

Though the association would like to pay Wheeler’s successor a bit less, the job remains one of the most sought-after in town.

Now that Pickering is out of the running, the leading candidates for the post are thought to be former Reps. Dennis Eckert (D-Ohio) and Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), GOP lobbyist Dan Cohen and CTIA lobbyist Steve Berry.

Wheeler’s contract does not expire until the end of the year, but CTIA wants to hire a replacement this summer in order to have the successor begin in the fall.

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