FCC chairman Ajit Pai turned today to a research fellow at a Koch Industries-supported think tank to serve as the agency’s chief economist.

Jerry Ellig has worked since 1996 at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which bills itself as “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas.”

In a major 2010 story about Charles and David Koch’s influence in what she called the “war against Obama,” The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer said that controversial billionaire brothers provided at least $30 million to help establish Mercatus.

She quoted Democratic strategist Rob Stein, who called Mercatus “ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.”

Ellig has served as deputy director of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning from 2001-23 and was a senior economist at Congress’ Joint Economic Committee in 1995-96.

“I’m excited that Dr. Ellig will lend his talents to the FCC as we continue to integrate economic analysis into our decision-making and create an agency culture that supports big-picture economic thinking once again,” Pai says. “Dr. Ellig’s record of distinguished scholarship and prior government service makes him the right person for this job.”

In his new role, Ellig will help to create an Office of Economics and Data, one of Pai’s initiatives to provide economic analysis for rulemakings and policies.

Ellig has specialized in research on the U.S. regulatory process, competition policy in telecommunications, broadband and electronic commerce and performance management in government agencies.

The FCC’s new chief economist likely will be an influential ally for Pai in his effort to relax federal rules that empower the agency to enforce net neutrality protections. In 2010 he joined 21 economists who told the FCC that that they found “no support for the existence of market failure” that merited tough rules.