Renata Hesse, a front-runner among Joe Biden’s picks for the top antitrust job at the Department of Justice, has raised questions from progressive groups and a conservative congressman for her past legal work advising Google and Amazon.
Biden is being sworn into office during growing antitrust activity against the biggest U.S. tech companies. Democrats on the House Judiciary committee detailed the market abuses of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook in a report last summer, The Hill reported. Google was sued in 2020 by the Department of Justice for its monopoly on search and online advertising.
“Joe Biden should not be appointing someone who worked for Google and Amazon to lead the Antitrust Division. This is very concerning for those of us who want to hold Big Tech accountable,” Congressman Ken Buck tweeted.
A Republican from Windsor, Buck represents Colorado’s 4th Congressional District — one of the state’s most conservative. He serves on the House Judiciary Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Citizenship and Immigration.
Rep. Buck isn’t alone. A coalition of 40 anti-monopoly groups want the Biden administration to avoid appointing former big tech employees to key antitrust roles in the government.
“We believe that appointing antitrust enforcers with no ties to dominant corporations in the industries they will be tasked with overseeing — particularly in regard to the technology sector — will help re-establish public trust in government at a critically important moment in our country’s history,” the groups wrote in a letter on Monday to the Biden transition team, The Hill reported.
The 40 organizations, including Demand Progress and Indivisible, specifically asked Biden not to choose candidates who have served as “lawyers, lobbyists, or consultants” for Amazon, Apple, Google or Facebook.
Hesse is a former Justice Department official under President Barack Obama who defended Google a decade ago and helped with the Amazon/Whole Foods merger. She is top contender for the job of assistant attorney general for antitrust, the Prospect and The Intercept reported.
Rep. Buck’s opposition to a potential Hesse pick attracted attention on social media, where some users commented on his motives and suggested he was being a sore loser after Twitter banned suspended President Trump’s account: “aw, was twitter mean to your daddy?” one tweeted.
Another said, “You don’t want to hold big tech ‘accountable’, you’re just angry they won’t let you incite additional insurrections on their platforms.”
“If Hesse merely advised those firms on antitrust issues, I don’t see that being a problem,” another tweeted.
Some called Buck out for hypocrisy. “Accountable for what? Because it seems to me like the GOP’s problem with ‘Big Tech’ isn’t generally their monopolistic practices, but rather that they enforce their terms of service when conservatives want to freely use their platforms to spread propaganda and plan violence,” one tweeted.
Another reminded Buck that the Trump had its share of swamp insiders: “The current EPA director literally came from coal.”
Hesse’s work for Google will likely force her to recuse herself from active anti-monopoly antitrust cases against it, which include some of the biggest cases in 20 years, The Intercept reported. “Picking a Big Tech lawyer would open up Biden to criticism from the left and right, aside from the unusual circumstance of the top attorney in the division recusing herself from the most important case under her watch.”
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Big tech critic Zephyr Teachout, author of “Break ’Em Up,” said “Bringing in anybody from big tech to a leadership role in antitrust is a political, policy, and managerial disaster. We know how the revolving door works. The ideology of big companies shapes the ideology of government.”
After serving in the Justice Department from 2002 to 2006, Hesse spent five years practicing at Google’s go-to law firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. She did significant antitrust work for Google, including defending it against state attorney general investigations. She teamed up with Ted Cruz in 2010 to advocate for Google in a case in Texas. Hesse and Cruz were successful, and no action was taken against Google, The Intercept reported.
Cruz is currently fighting to retain his law degree and bar license after contributing to the incitement of a riot at the U.S. Capitol, an event promoted on big tech platforms like Google’s YouTube. Hesse is on the verge of getting a promotion.Prospect and The Intercept
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