Skip to main content

GOP Senators Seek Hearing on FTC's Handling of Google

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Gary Arlen)

A trio of Senate Republicans wants their Democratic colleagues to hold a public hearing on what they say was the Obama-Biden Federal Trade Commission's failure to give Google more than a slap on the wrist following a 2011 investigation into potential anticompetitive conduct.

Also Read: House Judiciary Seeks Big Tech Document Drop

That urging--they can only urge since Democrats control the Senate and committee calendars--came from Judiciary Committee members Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Hawley is a freshman who has made bashing Big Tech is issue of choice, while Lee is former chair of the Antitrust Subcommittee and Blackburn has accused Big Tech of using its power to suppress conservative speech.

Hawley independently called for the hearing earlier this week.

The three have sent a letter to Judiciary chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) saying there should be a hearing with relevant FTC officials, including former commissioners now working for Big Tech, as well as a heads-up letter to FTC acting chair Rebecca Slaughter asking for FTC cooperation with any congressional oversight of the agency and "enforcement--or underenforcement" of antitrust laws. 

Also Read: Hawley Would Presumptively Block Biggest Tech Mergers

“The FTC’s inaction has had broad-sweeping implications for our economy, our culture, and our democracy," they wrote. "In the intervening years, Google has amassed—and exploited—an ever-growing market share in search and digital advertising and smartphones, and has used these dominant positions to make inroads into other product lines and services. As distressing as these consequences may be, the FTC’s inaction has had consequences far beyond the actions and market power of a single firm. The FTC’s failure to enforce the nation’s antitrust laws signaled to similarly dominant market participants, in tech or elsewhere, that compliance is optional. In other words, lax enforcement of our laws encourages lawlessness."

The Republicans cited a recent Politico story saying that Barack Obama misread the evidence in giving Google a pass when it closed its investigation in 2013 by declining to sue Google. 

Sen. Hawley identified it as the "Obama-Biden" FTC in his announcement of the hearing push, taking a page from President Joe Biden's numerous references to the Obama-Biden Administration during his campaign for President.