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Blog Post | July 17, 2023

Lina Khan Unscathed By Conflicted Ethics Officer and Pro-Monopoly Republicans

Anti-MonopolyCongressional OversightEthics in GovernmentFTCTech
Lina Khan Unscathed By Conflicted Ethics Officer and Pro-Monopoly Republicans

Last Thursday, Lina Khan appeared before the House Judiciary Committee for an oversight hearing predicated on baseless accusations by Republicans. Rep Jim Jordan and company had already been eyeing Khan for an investigation because she had the audacity to enforce a consent decree that Twitter violated under Elon Musk’s leadership. Then, they eagerly seized on last month’s (conveniently timed) reporting from Bloomberg which published a previously unseen memo from an FTC ethics official and accused Chair Khan of ignoring the official’s recommendation. 

With that backdrop, the Republicans seemed poised to strike while the iron was hot, a culmination of their years-long project to undermine Khan’s leadership and reputation. The result was … much different. Thanks to some sleuthing on our part and the bipartisan support for taking on tech monopolies, yesterday’s hearing was less a damning inquisition and more a victory lap for Khan’s rejuvenation of the FTC. Here’s how the buildup to yesterday’s hearing went down:

  • June 16: Bloomberg published “Lina Khan Rejected FTC Ethics Recommendation to Recuse in Meta Case” accusing Khan of ignoring Designated Agency Ethics Officer Lorielle Pankey’s recommendation in the Meta case.
  • June 23: Politico reported that Khan will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on July 13, 2023. 
  • June 28: Representatives Jim Jordan and Cathy Rodgers sent a letter to Chair Khan accusing Khan of an “apparent ethical failure and misleading testimony” and announcing an oversight investigation in light of Pankey’s memo.
  • June 30: Wall Street Journal published “Ethics Official Owned Meta Stock While Recommending FTC Chair Recuse Herself From Meta Case” based on our revelation that Lorielle Pankey owns up to $50,000 in Meta stock.
  • July 5: The American Prospect published our piece “Lina Khan Haters Took A Premature Victory Lap.” We reiterated the Pankey conflict of interest, highlighted the fact that the memo was written at the behest of former FTC Commissioner and Khan-hater Christine Wilson, and called for improved ethics standards and enforcement across the government. 

Before yesterday, it was still unclear how the hearing would go. Despite our dismantling of Khan’s supposed ethics violation, there was still concern that Republicans could execute a successful, albeit trumped-up, investigation that eroded Khan’s public image beyond the Journal’s corporate-friendly readership. Instead, the pro-monopoly faction of the Republican party failed miserably, thanks to staunch defenders from both sides of the aisle citing our research: 

  • Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler started off the hearing with a correct prognostication of the pro-monopoly Republicans’ upcoming questions: “Ultimately Chair Khan, you will face attacks today because you are doing your job. And that is what threatens Republicans the most.”
  • Republican Rep. Ken Buck was the first Republican to defend Khan, citing Lorielle Pankey’s Meta stock holdings.
  • Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal: “It was FTC ethics official, Lorielle Pankey who owned stocks in Meta when she recommended that Chair Khan recuse herself from investigating Meta.”
  • Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse submitted the WSJ article on Pankey into the record and called out the absurdity of accusing Khan of an ethics violation.
  • Democratic Rep. Cori Bush wrapped it up with a summary of the true ethics scandal at hand: “So let me be clear, there is nothing unethical about standing up for workers, consumers, and small businesses.”

Ultimately, the attacks from corporate Republicans fell flat and the hearing turned into a run down of FTC successes: cracking down on junk fees and robocalls, proposed rules to ban non-competes and institute click to cancel, and increased scrutiny of anticompetitive mergers and big tech companies. We can only hope that the corporate shills in the GOP will finally give up their witch hunt and join their colleagues in passing legislation that helps Khan’s FTC prevent monopolistic consolidation and prosecute corporate malfeasance.

Image Credit: “Jim Jordan” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Anti-MonopolyCongressional OversightEthics in GovernmentFTCTech

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