A coalition of conservative advocacy groups sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday with a list of policy priorities for the new Republican commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The letter, spearheaded by the American Principles Project and cosigned by representatives from Heritage Action for America, the Internet Accountability Project, the Center for Renewing America, and The Bull Moose Project, expresses hope that McConnell will “consider selecting a nominee who has demonstrated throughout their career a willingness to take on the unchecked power of the most powerful Big Tech companies, especially given how these companies have weaponized their combined market power to directly interfere in our free and fair elections.”
In a report published today by Communications Daily, several names are being floated around for the position: Olivia Trusty, a longtime staffer of Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker and the policy director at the Senate Media and Broadband Subcommittee; Crystal Tully, also a Wicker staffer and the deputy staff director at the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; Mark Meador, deputy chief counsel for antitrust and competition policy to Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee; Josh Divine, chief counsel to Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley; Rachel Bissex, senior counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee; and Svetlana Gans, an attorney at Gibson Dunn.
This comes as Republican commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips announced his resignation from the Commission last Monday. According to federal law, “Not more than three of the Commissioners shall be members of the same political party.” The regulatory agency is currently comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans, including Phillips.
As leader of the Republican conference, McConnell serves as the primary advisor to President Biden for the president’s nomination of Phillips’s Republican successor. Phillips, nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate by voice vote, is serving a term that is set to expire in September 2023; whoever succeeds the vacancy left by Phillips will only be appointed for the remainder of this term. According to the same law, commissioners continue to serve until a successor is nominated and confirmed by the Senate.
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Phillips’s resignation came just days before the FTC requested public comment on “Commercial Surveillance and Data Security Rulemaking.” Phillips dissented to the Commission’s request for public comment, saying, “Congress—not the Federal Trade Commission – is where national privacy law should be enacted.” At an event at the American Enterprise Institute last month, the commissioner criticized Biden’s July 2021 executive order on “Promoting Competition in the American Economy," saying, “the scope of our current rulemaking authority is almost limitless… We’re now just making rules for the economy in a way that’s out of line with precedent.”
The regulatory agency is chaired by Lina Khan, the antitrust hawk who published the now-famous 2017 article in the Yale Law Journal titled, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” Khan considers herself to be a member of the ‘New Brandeis’ movement, a collection of scholars and activists who, according to the chairwoman, “believe the political economy is structured only through law and policy” and “do not recognise any form of organisation or any type of power as inevitable.”
Whomever McConnell advises Biden to nominate, the new Republican commissioner will either serve as a consistent foil or occasional ally of Khan’s unquestionably clear priorities.