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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Google is running a silent campaign to make sure President Trump appoints as permanent chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a candidate the tech giant is certain will never press an antitrust investigation of the company, after previously lobbying for a Republican favorable to Google to be nominated by President Bush as the third GOP FCC commissioner.
This is especially important given the steps the Trump administration took to advance a bill through Congress to cancel the FCC order on “Internet Privacy” that President Obama engineered in October 2016 at the urging of Google.
That the White House was not abandoning Internet privacy, but transferring the rule-making on Internet privacy from the FCC to the FTC was made abundantly clear by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at the White House briefing on Thursday.
“The White House supports Congress using its authority under the Congressional Review Act to roll back last year’s FCC rules on broadband regulation,” Spicer said.
“The previous administration, in an attempt to treat Internet service providers differently than edge providers, such as Google and Facebook, reclassified them as common carriers — much like a hotel or another retail outlet — and opened the door to an unfair regulatory framework. This will allow all service providers to be treated fairly and consumer protection and privacy concerns to be reviewed on an equal playing field,” Spicer continued.
Infowars.com has reported the uproar attacking the GOP in Congress revoking the FCC “Internet Privacy” rules is led by leftist groups funded by Google and Soros.
The Trump administration appears determined to reverse “Net Neutrality” rules as well as “Internet Privacy” rules promulgated by the Obama administration FCC, returning Internet privacy regulation to the FTC, the agency properly tasked with promulgating consumer protection rules.
Industry insiders say one of Google greatest fears is that the Trump administration might open an antitrust investigation, like the antitrust investigation of Microsoft in 1998 when it attempted to incorporate its own Internet browser, making it difficult for users to load successfully competing browsers such as Netscape.
In a Department of Justice settlement reached on Nov. 2, 2001, Microsoft agreed to place restrictions on its Windows operating system, having narrowly escaped a decision by the U.S. District court that Microsoft was a monopoly that needed to be broken into two companies to prevent Microsoft from using ever again its market power to crush competitors, including Apple, Netscape, Java, Lotus Software, Linux, and others.
Interestingly the case U.S. v. Microsoft Corporation, 253 F.3d 34 (D.C. Cir. 2001) began as an antitrust complaint initially filed with the FTC in 1992.
Although the FTC is authorized to have five commissioners with no more than three of the same political party, at present the FTC has only two commissioners: Maureen K. Ohlhausen, a Republican appointed by President Obama in 2010, who President Trump elevated to be Acting Chair on Jan. 25, 2017; and Terrell McSweeney, a Democrat, appointed by President Obama and sworn in on April 28, 2014.
Behind the scenes, Google is quietly pushing for Ohlhausen, a life-time career bureaucrat, to be appointed permanent FTC chair.
Google calculates that Ohlhausen’s Republican views favoring robust open-market competition in a deregulated environment will be enough to get President Trump to appoint her as permanent FTC chair.
But Google’s true calculation is that Ohlhausen as FTC chair would protect Google from being forced to undergo renewed antitrust inspection.
Google knows that Ohlhausen dissented to an FTC settlement reached in 2013 to an antitrust complaint that involved various Google business practices, with the settlement requiring Google to share patents on critical standardized technologies needed to make popular electronic devices, such as smart phones, laptops and tablet computers.
A “puff piece” supporting Ohlhausen to be nominated permanent FTC chair was published by James Cooper, a professor at George Mason University, who published in Forbes on March 29, an article featuring Ohlhausen’s “Economic Liberty” agenda, as derived from remarks Ohlhausen delivered at the George Mason Law Review’s 20th Annual Antitrust Symposium on Feb. 23, 2017.
George Mason University (GMU) financial ties to Google were evidenced by a 2016 Campaign for Accountability’s Google Transparency Project report that noted four of five speakers appearing on a GMU panel on the global antitrust investigations of Google had received funding from Google.
That report noted that Cooper’s program at GMU has received at least $762,000 in donations from Google and internal emails published by the media showed Google lobbyists trying to place an op-ed he wrote in newspapers and suggesting panelists for a conference he organized, with the cash payment apparently made in return for Cooper writing “a raft of papers supporting Google’s position that it had not broken antitrust laws.”
On Feb. 23, 2017, Bloomberg BNA (formerly known as the Bureau of National Affairs) published an article entitled, “Ohlhausen Seen Auditioning to Keep Top FTC Role,” noting that Ohlhausen “has been speaking and tweeting a lot about her vision of the agency under President Donald Trump – a sign to some observers that she may be auditioning for a long-term leadership role.”
As hard as Google has lobbied behind the scenes to promote Ohlhausen, Google has worked overtime to smear Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes – a Republican nominee for FTC chair who campaigned strongly for Trump in western states during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“His appointment [i.e., Reyes] might be encouraging to people who want to see stronger antitrust enforcement than you’d normally expect in a Republican administration,” Seth Bloom, an antitrust attorney at Bloom Strategic Counsel LLC in Washington, told Bloomberg BNA.
On Jan. 29, 2016, Reyes joined D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine in writing to then-FTC chair Edith Ramirez, suggesting the antitrust investigation the FTC closed against Google in 2013 should be reopened, in light of antitrust authorities in the EU and India pursuing complaints against Google similar to the complaints the FTC investigated and settled in 2013.
On Aug. 17, 2015, Google lost a strong ally on the FTC when Commissioner Joshua D. Wright, a Republican, abruptly announced his resignation as FTC commissioner, a position he had held since January 2013.
Although he led the transition team of then President-elect Trump that focused on the FTC, Wright has faced criticism for his outright support of Google, as evidenced by a paper he wrote in 2010 that was highly critical of the prospect Google might face the type of aggressive antitrust action the European Union had taken against high-tech companies, including Qualcomm, Intel, and Microsoft.