On Wednesday, 5 Big Tech anti-trust bills will be voted on by the House Judiciary Committee. There is widespread bipartisan support for these bills, which have been diligently worked on for 16 months-- Congress' single most bipartisan effort-- but... predictably, the efforts are being bashed by the forces of uncontrollable greed and corruption from both parties. In introducing the bills, David Cicilline (D-RI) and Ken Buck (R-CO), the chair and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee's anti-trust subcommittee, noted that the intent of the legislative package is "to expand opportunities for consumers, workers, and small business owners by holding unregulated Big Tech monopolies accountable for anti-competitive conduct." But that sure isn't how Big Tech lobbyists see it.
Cicilline: "The American people sent us to Washington to get things done. Nothing is more important than ensuring every American has an opportunity to get ahead. Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy. They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work. Our agenda will level the playing field and ensure the wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us."
Buck: "Big Tech has abused its dominance in the marketplace to crush competitors, censor speech, and control how we see and understand the world. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have prioritized power over innovation and harmed American businesses and consumers in the process. These companies have maintained monopoly power in the online marketplace by using a variety of anticompetitive behaviors to stifle competition. This legislation breaks up Big Tech’s monopoly power to control what Americans see and say online, and fosters an online market that encourages innovation and provides American small businesses with a fair playing field. Doing nothing is not an option, we must act now."
The 5 bills:
The “American Innovation and Choice Online Act” to prohibit discriminatory conduct by dominant platforms, including a ban on self-preferencing and picking winners and losers online. The bill is sponsored by Chairman Cicilline and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden (TX-05).
The “Platform Competition and Opportunity Act” prohibits acquisitions of competitive threats by dominant platforms, as well acquisitions that expand or entrench the market power of online platforms. The bill is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) and co-sponsored by Ranking Member Buck.
The “Ending Platform Monopolies Act” eliminates the ability of dominant platforms to leverage their control over across multiple business lines to self-preference and disadvantage competitors in ways that undermine free and fair competition. The bill is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden (TX-05).
The “Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act” promotes competition online by lowering barriers to entry and switching costs for businesses and consumers through interoperability and data portability requirements. This bill is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05) and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens (UT-04).
The “Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act” updates filing fees for mergers for the first time in two decades to ensure that Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have the resources they need to aggressively enforce the antitrust laws. This bill is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (CO-02) and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz (IN-05).
On Friday the most corrupt faction of House Democrats, the corporately-funded New Dems, sent a letter to Pelosi and Hoyer and to the chair of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, as well as to Cicilline, whining about a hodgepodge of issues suggested by Big Tech lobbyists to slow down or derail the process. The letter was signed by the 8 New Dem officers, including chair Suzan DelBene (aka- the congresswoman from Microsoft) and very conservative and very anti-worker Dem Dem vice chairs Scott Peters (CA) and Ann Kuster (NH).
Ally Dalsimer, who is running for a northern Virginia congressional seat held by New Dem Gerry Connolly, told us this morning that "It's no surprise that the New Dems are working to block common sense reforms and defend their corporate donors, as it's what the caucus has been doing for nearly a quarter century. In Virginia, we have no shortage of elected officials who uplift fiscally regressive policy masked with virtue signalling. With a former Virginia Congressman being one of the co-founders of the caucus in 1997, and all but one current Democratic representatives from the state being members (including my opponent), Virginia voters have lacked representation from leaders who strive for an equitable society, and instead being subjected to leaders who care more about their corporate interests and maintaining the status quo than making sure Virginians are able to survive and thrive. The New Dems decided upon their name for the explicit reason that they wanted to brand themselves as a new, modern version of the party that steered away from more fiscally progressive policy. In doing so, they prioritized compromise with conservative values and inherently pushed the Republican party further right, leading to neo-fascists and authoritarians rising to prominence. The American people need politicians who are in office to fight for them, not to play political chess to appease their mega-donors."
Although the populist Trumper Republicans are planning to vote with the mainstream Democrats on this crucial attempt to rein in Big Tech monopolies-- the grotesquely corrupt mainstream Republicans, led by Kevin McCarthy-- who stands for nothing but corruption-- are dead set against it. Without Trump to tell them what he demands they do, the Republican conference is going through one of their frequent civil wars over the Wednesday vote, which both McCarthy and Judiciary Committee ranking member Gym Jordan vociferously oppose.
Jordan, who is popular with the white supremicists and neo-fascist wing is trying to undermine support among the anti-trust backers on the extreme right. Last week, he tweeted, deceptively, "Democrat impeachment managers don’t care about conservative censorship. Their next big mission? Empower Big Tech and Big Government to make it worse." But one Republican even further right than Jordan, Colorado's Ken Buck-- ranking member on the antitrust subcommittee and an enthusiastic cosponsor of the bills-- responded to Jordan by noting that "Using antitrust laws to stop Big Tech’s bad behavior isn’t Big Government, it’s law enforcement... For my conservative friends concerned about Big Tech’s power over information and speech, the only way to stop this power is through antitrust reform."
Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus reminded Democrats that "Not only is self-regulation by Big Tech patently ineffective, but it also comes at the direct expense of workers, consumers, small businesses, our local communities, and the free press. From Amazon and Facebook to Google and Apple, it is clear that these unregulated tech giants have become too big to care and too powerful to ever put people over profits. By reasserting the power of Congress, our landmark bipartisan bills rein in anti-competitive behavior, prevent monopolistic practices, and restore fairness and competition while finally leveling the playing field and allowing innovation to thrive."
She was strongly backed up by Joe Neguse, also a committed progressive: "In America, competition is central to economic growth and innovation, and when companies engage in anti-competitive tactics it harms consumers, entrepreneurs and our ability to compete globally. I’m proud to help unveil today’s bipartisan legislative agenda for a stronger online economy, a comprehensive set of bills that will expand opportunities for consumers, workers and small businesses by strengthening antitrust enforcement and addressing anti-competitive practices in the digital economy and beyond. As a former regulator and leader of Colorado’s consumer protection agency, I know how critical it is for our enforcement agencies to have the necessary resources to do their job... Congress has a vital role to play to ensure that markets are working in a way that benefits consumers, small businesses, innovation and our democracy. Today’s legislative action is a critical first step in that process."
This morning, The Hill reported that "GOP concerns over the additional power given to the FTC is further fueled by the Biden administration’s naming of Big Tech critic Lina Khan [formerly a top staffer on the anti-trust subcommittee] to chair the agency just hours after she was confirmed by the Senate in a 69-28 vote. Still, Khan garnered support from numerous Republicans, including leading tech critic Sen. Josh Hawley (MO). The GOP divisions are also pitting Trump allies against each other. Jordan is among the most vocal critics of the bills, while Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is a co-sponsor."
Outside groups say Republicans need to take action of some kind against Silicon Valley.
“Republican leaders need to decide whether they represent their constituents and conservatives, or they represent woke Big Tech billionaire monopolists in Silicon Valley,” said Mike Davis, founder and president of the conservative advocacy group Internet Accountability Project (IAP).
IAP has been sending emails to supporters, urging them to call Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to support the bills.
“I think their constituents are going to help change their minds. McCarthy and Jordan, especially Jordan, proclaim they are these champions of conservatives and great warriors against Big Tech, when in reality they're doing Big Tech’s bidding,” Davis said.
Tech industry groups that name the tech giants among their members, including NetChoice and Chamber of Progress, have bashed the proposals.
Buck pledged earlier this year to reject donations from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Twitter.
Jordan accepted a $5,000 donation from Google for his 2020 reelection campaign. He has accepted thousands of dollars from Google in election cycles over the past decade, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Asked about Jordan’s donations from Google, a spokesperson for the congressman pointed to Jordan’s Fox News interview last year when he defended accepting donations from the Silicon Valley giant.
“If Google gives me a few thousand dollar check, God bless them, that doesn't change who I am,” Jordan said.
McCarthy also accepted $5,000 from Google in the 2020 election cycle, as well as thousands of dollars from Amazon, Facebook and Google over the last decade, according to FEC records.
Neither McCarthy nor Jordan would qualify to receive donations from Amazon, Facebook or Google now as the tech companies have paused donations to lawmakers who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election.
Despite the backlash to the bills, Cicilline and Buck touted the bipartisan support that led to the proposals.
“Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much these days, but we agree on the need to take on these unregulated Big Tech monopolies,” Cicilline said at Wednesday's press conference.
“We would not be here today without the support of so many men and women on both sides of the aisle. We’re showing that bipartisanship is still possible in this day and age.”