Democrats skeptical of Obama's FTC pick

ADVERTISEMENT
Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) questioned Wright over corporate funding he received for some of his academic research.

Wright has attracted particular attention for his writings defending Google from criticism over antitrust issues. Wright is a senior adjunct fellow at TechFreedom, a libertarian-leaning think tank that receives funding from Google.  

The FTC is currently weighing whether to sue Google over allegations that it prefers its own services in search results.

At the hearing, Wright pledged to recuse himself for two years from any FTC actions involving Google and other cases that would cause a conflict of interest.

Cantwell pressed Wright over whether he would recuse himself from cases if they begin before he joins the commission but are not voted on until after his two-year pledge expires. Wright said he would have to consult the FTC's ethics experts.

Boxer told Wright to submit a list to the committee of all the companies that have funded his work.

"I don't know the extent to which you've been hired by these corporate folks," Boxer said.

Boxer said some of Wright's past writings trouble her, including his statement that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is "progressive and dangerous" and his claim that the FTC has been hampered by "a history and pattern of appointments evidencing a systematic failure to meet expectations."

"These comments seem to indicate that you doubt the FTC's mission," Boxer charged.

Wright said his criticism of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was "never about the existing agency." He said he is a firm believer in the FTC's consumer protection and competition enforcement responsibilities.

"I do believe in rules and regulations. I also believe that markets are a powerful institution that operate for consumers," Wright said in response to questioning from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

Wright also said he supports the FTC's efforts to establish a Do Not Track feature that would allow Internet users to opt out of third-party online tracking. The FTC is currently encouraging Web browsers and advertisers to establish a voluntary Do Not Track system, but Democratic Chairman Jon Leibowitz has suggested that regulations could be necessary if companies fail to act.