House Republican joins progressive push to keep former big tech adviser out of DOJ role

Greg Nash

Republican Rep. Beth Van Duyne (Texas) is joining a previously uniformly progressive push to keep a former Big Tech adviser out of one of the top antitrust roles in the Biden administration.

The first-year lawmaker wrote a letter to the president urging him against appointing Renata Hesse to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division Thursday on the heels of reports that she is a front-runner for the position.

Hesse has advised both Google and Amazon, most notably helping shepherd through the e-commerce giant’s $13 billion acquisition of Whole Foods.

“While I do not doubt Ms. Hesse’s acumen as a lawyer, I am deeply concerned her experience fighting for Big Tech’s ability to exercise market dominance to engage in massive acquisitions and anti-competitive practices will undermine her ability to neutrally oversee DOJ’s enforcement of antitrust laws,” Van Duyne wrote in the letter to Biden obtained by The Hill.

The White House did not immediately provide comment on the letter, while Hesse declined to when contacted by The Hill.

A coalition of 40 anti-monopoly groups, including the American Economic Liberties Project, Demand Progress and Indivisible, warned the Biden administration against appointing people with ties to big technology companies to key antitrust roles right after reports of Hesse’s consideration were first published.

While Van Duyne’s opposition to the pick might not sway Biden’s choice by itself, especially since she was one of the 139 Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying his election win, it does show that appointing an antitrust enforcer with ties to Big Tech will bring heat from both sides of the political spectrum.

The new administration has yet to make a pick for the DOJ role or a decision on who will lead the Federal Trade Commission on a permanent basis. 

Both agencies are currently involved in significant antitrust action against some of America’s largest tech companies.

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

The Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook later for, among other things, making anticompetitive acquisitions in the social media space.

“It is important, now more than ever, that the individual at the helm of the DOJ’s antitrust division be diligent in pursuit of protecting free speech, enforcing antitrust laws to address the ballooning influence of Big Tech, and neutrally addressing the anti-competitive practices that have led Big Tech companies, like Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook, to amass the influence they now hold over society,” Van Duyne wrote in her letter. 

“Unfortunately, I do not believe that person to be Ms. Hesse.”

–Updated at 9:25 a.m.

Tags Antitrust enforcement Beth Van Duyne Biden nominees Big tech
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