Biden needs ‘clean break’ on antitrust after FTC’s Google failure, activists say

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Nearly 30 progressive groups urged President Joe Biden on Tuesday to nominate aggressive antitrust enforcers for key posts in the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, saying he should “make a clean break from past leadership” of the tech-friendly Obama administration.

What they said: Citing POLITICO’s reporting on the FTC’s 2013 decision not to sue Google, the groups accused Washington’s Obama-era antitrust enforcers of displaying poor judgment and failing to grasp the threat that the search giant posed to competition. They include the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly advocacy group, and Our Revolution, a progressive organization that spun out of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

“It’s clear that the ability of Big Tech giants like Google to acquire monopoly power has been abetted by the leadership deficit at top enforcement agencies such as the FTC,” the groups wrote in a letter addressed to Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland. “We need a break from past, failed leadership, and we need it now.”

Key context: The letter comes months after the FTC filed an antitrust suit against Facebook and the DOJ launched a complaint against Google. But both agencies are also waiting for Biden to make nominations that will help determine how aggressively they act on antitrust concerns in the tech industry.

Biden on Monday nominated Lina Khan, a progressive favorite, to an open seat on the FTC, which now has an even partisan split but is soon to lose Democrat Rohit Chopra, who was nominated to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He hasn’t yet named a permanent chair for the FTC or a Justice Department antitrust chief.

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