Longtime Department of Justice Antitrust Division staffer Doug Rathbun has a new public policy job at Facebook, and a “congratulatory” tweet posted by antitrust warrior Matt Stoller is getting a lot of eye-roll-type responses.
Politicians or government staffers transitioning out of Washington, D.C. still need to find work. Working on policy for a non-government entity is often the most accessible next job and they’re best qualified for. It shouldn’t be a problem so long as there is no conflict of interest, wrote Carlotta Alfonsi, an alum of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the Kennedy School Review in February 2020.
In his 2019 book, “Goliath,” Stoller warned that if we don’t take on Big Tech, “we’ll become a fascist society.” The book covers the history of antitrust in the U.S., and examines how concentrated financial power and consumerism helped drive populism and authoritarianism.
Rathbun is part of the surge in the “revolving door” phenomenon, the two-way movement of professionals between the private and public sectors. “There is danger that this political access and influence will undercut current initiatives in Congress to regulate new technologies,” Alfonsi wrote.
Big tech in 2019 ranked among the third-largest revolving door employer of lobbyists that had previously worked in government, according to Alfonsi.
Rathbun worked for 14 years at the DOJ — the last three, as counsel in the Office of Legal Policy — on antitrust and regulatory issues involving executive DOJ nominees. He also managed initiatives involving tech platforms, regulation and data privacy. Rathbun was rewarded with a coveted Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service for his “work in support of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh” to the Supreme Court.
During his 11 other years at the DOJ, Rathbun worked as acting assistant chief attorney advisor of the Antitrust Division, Competition Policy & Advocacy Section. He developed and managed policy and was the antitrust point person, serving as an antitrust expert on legislation relating to data privacy. He ran the Antitrust Division’s legislative program.
The timing of Rathbun’s transition through the revolving door to Facebook is important. The U.S. has the power and the responsibility to prevent corporations from becoming monopolies and it says Facebook is one. In December 2020, the Federal Trade Commission and 46 states sued Facebook, accusing it of buying competitors WhatsApp and Instagram to annihilate the competition in social media. The FTC antitrust lawsuit seeks to break up Facebook.
“Congrats Douglas! Good luck at Facebook. You were a pit bull on antitrust enforcement !” Patrick D. tweeted @Pat022513, with an accompanying gif of an actor winking.
“If ya can’t beat em join em lol but also don’t even try to beat em,”
@RonnieMedina911 tweeted in response to Stoller’s congratulations.
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