Progressive groups warn against appointing tech insiders to key antitrust roles

Progressive groups warn against appointing tech insiders to key antitrust roles
© Washington Examiner/Pool

A coalition of 40 anti-monopoly groups are urging the incoming Biden administration against appointing former Big Tech employees to key antitrust roles in the government.

“We believe that appointing antitrust enforcers with no ties to dominant corporations in the industries they will be tasked with overseeing  particularly in regard to the technology sector  will help re-establish public trust in government at a critically important moment in our country’s history,” the groups wrote in a letter to the transition team Monday.

The 40 organizations, including the American Economic Liberties Project, Demand Progress and Indivisible, specifically called on President-elect BidenJoe BidenOvernight Defense: Senate panel adds B to Biden's defense budget | House passes bill to streamline visa process for Afghans who helped US | Pentagon confirms 7 Colombians arrested in Haiti leader's killing had US training On The Money: Senate braces for nasty debt ceiling fight | Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan deal | Housing prices hit new high in June Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks MORE to avoid selecting candidates who have served as “lawyers, lobbyists, or consultants” for Amazon, Apple, Google or Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT

The letter comes on the heels of reports that Renata Hesse is a front-runner for the top antitrust job at the Department of Justice.

Hesse, a former agency official during the Obama administration, has a long history with tech companies. She has advised both Amazon and Google, most notably helping shepherd through the e-commerce giant’s $13 billion acquisition of Whole Foods.

Biden’s transition team did not respond to questions about Hesse’s potential selection or comment on the letter.

The new president is being sworn into office amid a surge of antitrust activity aimed at the country’s biggest tech companies.

The Department of Justice sued Google last year for allegedly illegally maintaining its monopoly on search and online advertising.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook later for, among other things, making anticompetitive acquisitions in the social media space. With Democratic Commissioner Rohit ChopraRohit ChopraHillicon Valley: FTC votes to expand antitrust enforcement powers | US, UK agencies warn of Russian hackers using 'brute force' to target hundreds of groups | Trump allies launch new social media platform FTC votes to expand antitrust enforcement powers Warren presses Yellen to ramp up BlackRock oversight MORE being tapped to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and current Chairman Joseph Simons (R) stepping down later this month, the Biden administration will have two slots to fill on the powerful agency.

Some activity from Congress on the antitrust front is also expected.

Democrats on the House Judiciary committee released a sweeping report last summer detailing the market abuses of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. Republicans have signaled support for some of the remedies in the report.

Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHillicon Valley: Biden: Social media platforms 'killing people' | Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push | Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' Bipartisan group calls on Biden to clarify reasoning for Syria airstrikes MORE (R-Colo.), who led a minority report largely backing the assessment of the industry presented by the Democrats, has criticized reports that Biden could select Hesse for the Justice Department role.

“Joe Biden should not be appointing someone who worked for Google and Amazon to lead the Antitrust Division,” he tweeted Tuesday. “This is very concerning for those of us who want to hold Big Tech accountable.”