Technology

White House pressured to recuse legislative director from antitrust talks

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., left, talks with White House director of legislative affairs Louisa Terrell, right, before the start of an event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Advocacy groups urged the White House to recuse the director of the Office of Legislative Affairs from interacting with Congress about key antitrust bills targeting tech giants, pointing to her past work as public policy director at Facebook. 

The Revolving Door Project and six other groups said despite there being no legal requirement to recuse Louisa Terrell, the White House should “adopt a higher standard in this matter” and insist on a recusal, according to a copy of a letter exclusively shared with The Hill. 

The letter was sent Tuesday to White House chief of staff Ron Klain. 

In addition to Terrell’s past at Facebook, the letter cites a Bloomberg report that in outreach to Capitol Hill, Terrell rarely mentioned the antitrust legislation and pivoted conversations to other tech issues, such as data privacy.

The White House told Bloomberg that Terrell has been supportive of the legislative effort and rejected claims that she was disengaged.

The Hill reached out to a White House spokesperson for comment on the letter.

The letter is also signed by the American Economic Liberties Project, Other98, Presente.org, Freedom BLOC, Main Street Alliance and UltraViolet Action. 

“The future of competition in digital markets, as well as the White House’s credibility on Big Tech related issues, is on the line,” the groups wrote.

Advocacy groups supporting antitrust reform have been urging lawmakers to take action to pass two key bills targeting tech giants during the lame-duck session, before Republicans take control of the House in January. 

The two main bills that proponents are pushing for are the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act, bipartisan bills that advanced out of the Judiciary committees in both chambers but have not been called for floor votes. 

The first bill aims to prevent companies from preferencing their own products and services; the second aims to add regulations to dominant app stores. 

They mainly target the four biggest tech companies: Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook parent company Meta. 

The tech giants and industry groups have pushed back on the legislation, arguing the proposals could pose security concerns, undermine content moderation efforts and stifle innovation. 
Supporters of the legislation have tried to dispel the accusations and pushed congressional leaders to call the bills to floor votes.

Tags big tech Facebook Louisa Terrell Louisa Terrell Ron Klain tech antitrust
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