Booker wants more scrutiny of Amazon-Whole Foods merger

Booker wants more scrutiny of Amazon-Whole Foods merger
© Greg Nash

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) says he plans to join other members of the Congressional Black Caucus in calling for more scrutiny of the Amazon-Whole Foods merger.

Booker told Recode that he and other lawmakers will finalize and send a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) highlighting their concerns with the $14 billion acquisition.

“This consolidation that’s happening all over the country is not a positive trend,” Booker said.

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Booker expressed concern that the DOJ under Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsIntel leaders: Collusion still open part of investigation Republicans jockey for position on immigration Biden to Alabama: No more extremist senators MORE would not sufficiently examine potentially negative ramifications of the merger.

Many antitrust experts see the deal as Amazon simply purchasing a business that engages in a different stage of production than itself — a vertical merger. Such deals are generally approved by the DOJ. But Booker warned of issues beyond the scope of antitrust law.

“We’re having a hard enough time getting supermarkets to move into urban communities, to give people choice, to give people price competitiveness, so that actually they’re paying for affordable groceries,” Booker told Recode.

“I worry about grocery consolidation, I worry about the jobs that many of these grocery stores create, and so I am skeptical of this particular merger, highly skeptical of it, and I believe this consolidation as well as other consolidations, we should be holding a far higher bar than we are when we approve these.”

The New Jersey senator joins Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in calling for a closer examination of the merger. Last week, Cicilline sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Warrantless wiretapping reform legislation circulates on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Va.) asking for a hearing to scrutinize the possible negative effects of the deal.

Booker also took shots at Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and acting chairman of the Federal Trade Commission Maureen Ohlhausen, who helm regulatory agencies that make sure U.S. businesses take advantage of consumers.

“I think these are extremely dangerous people in positions right now that are going to do nothing but inflame the economic injustices we’re already seeing in our country, giving more power to corporate consolidation, to corporations as a whole, and less power to Americans,” Booker said of the two.

Both have championed deregulation on the grounds that freer markets are more beneficial to consumers.