Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Will the FTC Be Forced Out of Its Headquarters Building?

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

Over the years there have been legislative efforts to move the Federal Trade Commission out of its historic headquarters at 600 Pennsylvania Avenue to make the space available for the agency’s neighbor, the National Gallery of Art. The FTC and its staff have called the Apex Building home since 1938.

Legislation once again has been introduced in Congress calling for the transfer of the FTC building to the National Gallery. In response, the five FTC Commissioners sent a letter today to the leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, expressing their opposition to the move.

The proposed “Federal Trade Commission and National Gallery of Art Facility Consolidation, Savings, and Efficiency Act of 2011” was introduced on February 14 by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica(Florida).

The measure (H.R. 690) would transfer control of the building at 600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Gallery of Art to enable the museum to house and exhibit works of art and to carry out administrative functions. The National Gallery would remodel the building with private funds, and the building would be renamed the North Building of the National Gallery of Art.

The FTC would be relocated to another government-owned building in Washington, D.C., under the proposal. The legislation lists two possible locations: (1) Federal Office Building Number 8 in Southwest Washington, D.C., and (2) 1800 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. But other locations could be considered.

A similar proposal introduced in the 109th Congress in 2005 by Rep. Mica called for the transfer of the Apex building to the National Gallery but did not specify where the FTC might be relocated.

Rep. Mica contends that moving the FTC would saves hundreds of millions of dollars in lease costs and building renovation costs. Presumably, the FTC would be consolidated into one location. Currently, the FTC has a satellite building and conference center at 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.

Commissioners’ Objections

The Commissioners oppose the efforts to move the FTC to another location.

“Forcing the FTC out of its federally-owned headquarters would displace our agency from a building that it has continuously occupied since it was designed and built for us over 70 years ago,” according to the letter.

The Commissioners also contend that the move will actually cost taxpayers more money. They argue that “the FTC would have to build new courtrooms for conducting adjudications as well as replace its extensive information technology infrastructure, including infrastructure for tracking, investigating, and fighting online and offline fraud.”

In addition, they suggest that taxpayers would still be responsible for maintenance and operations of the new North Building of the National Gallery. It also was suggested that the FTC’s move could also displace other federal agencies.

The letter concludes with a quote from President Franklin Roosevelt, as he laid the cornerstone for the FTC building in 1937:

“May this permanent home of the Federal Trade Commission stand for all time as a symbol of the purpose of the Government to insist on a greater application of the Golden Rule to the conduct of corporations and business enterprises in the relationship to the body politic.”

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