Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Spirit of Independence

PAM HARBOUR is the Federal Trade Commission’s only Independent commissioner


At 8:00 p.m. on a balmy night last summer, Pam Harbour was standing in line at Disney World with her three children, Alexandra, Katherine and Elizabeth when Senator Tom Daschle’s office rang her cell phone to let her know that her year and a half nomination process was over. After having been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, she had become the only Independent commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In her first interview since her term began last September, Harbour reveals why she has become one of the Bush Administrations most intriguing appointees. Professionally, she is known for being knowledgeable and articulate about anti-trust and competition issues. She travels domestically and internationally addressing her concern to create a fair market place for businesses.

You were a music major in college. Do you play an instrument?
My instrument was voice; however, I took piano for a number of years. I have favorite composers such as Puccini and favorite operas such as “Carmen,” “Porgy and Bess” and “Don Giovanni.”

Who is the most interesting person you have met in Washington, D.C.? Alma Powell, whom I actually met at Washington Life’s Substance and Style event. I have a great deal of admiration for her. I like her demeanor, how she expresses herself. She has the quality of a great lady, warm, personable, articulate, nice, charming and aristocratic.

What has surprised you most about Washington?
I was surprised by how many New Yorkers enjoy D.C. The difference is that in New York, the currency is business, whereas in D.C., it is about access and power. I don’t know if that really surprised me.


In which ways do you find yourself siding with Democrats or Republicans?
I dissent far less than I agree with majority [the Republicans]. The majority of the votes are unanimous. You only hear about the ones that are not.

You made some strong statements against Kentucky Fried Chicken because it misled the public regarding the nutrition content of its food. You seem to favor small business. How do you decide which consumer issues are important enough to bring to the public’s attention?
I have a problem when a company makes questionable or unsubstantiated health claims and exploits a national health crisis, such as obesity, to sell its product. When I saw the [KFC] commercials, I had a very strong reaction, which compelled me to issue a statement.

Before your job at the FTC, you served as the deputy attorney general of New York where you prosecuted several antimerger cases. When do you think companies should be limited to corporate mergers?
Our anti-trust laws do not prohibit companies from attaining monopoly power, as long as a company attains it by way of historical accident or by superior business, shrewdness or accruement. However, if a company willfully maintains its monopoly by anti-competitive behavior, that’s when government should step in. I think government can protect small business by promoting free and open competition and by providing a level playing field for all companies to compete fairly.

Your seven year term will end in 2009.What do you want to accomplish before them?
I will continue to take a principled, pro-active approach to maintaining competitive markets here in the United States. I hope to see the Commission and myself personally remain vigilant in the economic sectors that matter most to consumers, such as health care, pharmaceuticals, oil, gas and technology.

Where do you see yourself going next?
That’s an interesting question, because I am not really worried about it. I figure if I do my best in my current job, the rest will take care of itself. I might practice law, I might go back to my

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