David Cicilline (D-RI) is now the chair of the Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. There's not doubt we can count on him doing a much better-- and very different-- job than the one former chair Tom Marino was doing. In fact, with nightmare Republican extremist like Matt Gaetz (FL), Ken Buck (CO), Darrell Issa (CA), John Ratcliffe (TX) and Doug Collins (GA), nothing worthwhile has come out of that subcommittee for a long longtime. Welcome to a new day. This week, Barry Lynn, head of the Open Markets Institute wrote that "over the last year, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons has been strongly criticized for his failure to enforce the agency's 2011 consent decree on Facebook but has largely skirted scrutiny of his unwillingness to address the ongoing merger frenzy in any meaningful way. Department of Justice Antitrust Division chief Makan Delrahim, meanwhile, has largely escaped the public spotlight, with the notable exception of his agency’s poorly thought-out case to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner. The new Democratic majority in Congress means this is now likely to change."
The new Chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee is likely to be Congressman David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat and member of the Democratic House leadership. Cicilline is an aggressive anti-monopolist and has a track record of skepticism towards tech platforms. He has written legislation allowing newspapers to bargain collectively over advertising revenues with large online ad companies and has pledged to author new legislation expanding antitrust authority against dominant platforms.
Cicilline is also willing to act. Last month, he questioned Google CEO Sundar Pichai on the search giant’s plans to launch a Chinese product. He said Facebook executives “will always put their massive profits ahead of the interests of their customers” and noted that “it is long past time for us to take action.” In 2017, ;Cicilline ;called for hearings on the Amazon-Whole Foods merger. With his new authority, Cicilline can now bring pressure on both agencies to actually do the jobs they were hired to do. Delrahim’s failure to take on corporate concentration has been especially striking. Early on, Delrahim pledged to be a strong enforcer, portraying himself as a traditional pro-competition conservative. Delrahim attacked the idea f complex deals designed to let mergers go in exchange for conditions that require the agency to monitor a corporation’s post-deal behavior. Instead, ;he advocated preventing mergers outright, and took an especially strong stance against vertical integration, like in the tie-up between AT&T and Time Warner. Delrahim even called for jail time for employers engaging in wage-fixing against employees.
But in recent months, the Antitrust Division seems to have closed up shop even before the government shutdown took effect. Delrahim’s team conditionally cleared the drug store giant CVS to acquire insurancance company Aetna, despite innumerable conflicts of interest such a vertical deal creates, incurring the wrath of a generally pro-monopoly Judge Richard Leon. The DOJ also intervened in favor of Apple in the Supreme Court case Apple v. Pepper, which asks whether iPhone users can sue Apple for abusing its monopoly over the sale of apps. Delrahim has also not followed through on pledges to file criminal charges against wage-fixers. Perhaps most disturbingly, the DOJ has moved to restrict the rights of state enforcers and private plaintiffs to bring cases against instances of monopolization.
The libertarian anti-enforcement bent of the DOJ’s political team was made clear in recent comments by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch, who argued in a December speech at a Capitol Forum conference that “consumers often benefit from concentration” and that antitrust laws “are concerned with competition, not concentration.” He called suggestions to break up or regulate tech platforms “drastic” and warned that any such actions would reduce entrepreneurial activity.
Simons and Delrahim came into their offices with strong words for would-be monopolists. In 2019, Simons and Delrahim can expect at least one congressional committee chairman to demand answers on why this has not happened.
And it isn't just Cicilline's subcommittee where this kind of important work is going to be done. There are high expectations now that Maxine Waters has replaced Jeb Hensarling as head of the House Financial Services Committee. The committee that is charged with congressional oversight of, among other things, Wall Street has been captured by Wall Street. Every Republican and all the New Dems and Blue Dogs on the committee are there specifically to set themselves up as bribe-taking machines. Wall Street pumps immense amounts of money into the members of one of Congress' most popular committees and have gotten to write their own legislation in return. Nice deal. Of the members still on the committee, these are the criminal who have taken $2 million or more from the Finance Sector:
• Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)- $6,327,421
• Jim Himes (New Dem-CT)- $6,279,357
• Steve Stivers (R-OH)- $5,598,776
• Patrick McHenry (R-NC)- $5,586,542
• Ed Perlmutter (New Dem-CO)- $4,111,253
• Brad Sherman (D-CA)- $3,823,403
• Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)- $3,772,203
• ean Duffy (R-WI)- $3,679,647
• Gregory Meeks (New Dem-NY)- $3,661,288
• Andy Barr (R-KY)- $3,568,176
• David Scott (Blue Dog-GA)- $3,260,344
• Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL)- $3,165,972
• Peter King (R-NY)- $3,092,721
• Ann Wagner (R-MO)- $3,041,599
• Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)- $2,967,427
• Bill Huizenga (R-MI)- $2,801,450
• Bill Foster (New Dem-IL)- $2,780,919
• Frank Lucas (R-OK)- $2,483,427
• Roger Williams (R-TX)- $2,408,711
• French Hill (R-AR)- $2,386,049
• Nydia Velázquez (D-NY)- $2,380,936
• Gwen Moore (D-WI)- $2,184,850
• Lee Zeldin (R-NY)- $2,152,130
• Stephen Lynch (D-MA)- $2,084,356
Yesterday in a post about committees at The Intercept by David Dayen, Ryan Grim and Aida Chávez, an assertion was made that "Democrats have struggled to find many members to serve on Financial Services, leading to speculation that the party would actually shrink the size of the committee. Alternatively, that quandary could result in progressives being added as a last resort." That would be a drastic change over past years, when members would practically murder each other to get onto the biggest honeypot committee in Congress.
Dayen and his team further reported that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Katie Porter (D-CA) are being assigned to the committee, and that Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) may be as well. "The imminent Financial Services Committee announcement," they wrote, "would take some sting out of several disappointments for the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s high-profile rising stars, who on Wednesday were largely shut out of new assignments to three critical committees where they sought expanded representation."
The Progressive Caucus had cut a deal with Pelosi for increased representation on the so-called money committees that handle most domestic legislation. They sought membership on the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Appropriations, and Financial Services committees equal to their roughly 40 percent membership in the Democratic caucus.
...The Progressive Caucus’s demand for 40 percent representation was stymied by the composition of the caucus itself. There are no real barriers to membership and the caucus rarely whips its members for votes, meaning that members who want to wear a progressive badge without altering their legislative record can do so. Some members of the Progressive Caucus are even also affiliated with its centrist counterpoint, the New Democrat Coalition
Pelosi and House leadership made skillful use of those progressive/New Dem hybrids in making the committee assignments, which may be cynical from a leadership perspective, but was only possible as a result of the Progressive Caucus’s less-than-stringent membership rules-- rules that are within their own control.
And adding CPC members who are not genuine progressives to positions of power on committees could actually be a net loss, argued some operatives. Indeed, it sets up a dynamic in which weak legislation could earn the imprimatur of an influential CPC member, which makes it more difficult for the CPC itself to oppose.
...Instead of pushing for proportional representation for a disorganized, amorphous caucus, the CPC should have first organized itself, then pursued power, argued Waleed Shahid, spokesperson for Justice Democrats, which backed Ocasio-Cortez and other freshmen whose bids for the committees were rebuffed. “Numbers won’t mean much if being progressive means nothing. If everyone has their own definition and now has increased personal power through a seat on an executive committee, accountability to the progressive movement will be more difficult,” Shahid told The Intercept.
The move by Pelosi, to tap CPC members who are also in the New Dems, should have been anticipated, he argued. “Pelosi played by the CPC’s rules and appointed some of the least committed progressives to executive committees, including five CPC members who are also members of the centrist, corporate-friendly New Democratic caucus. Nearly all of the CPC members appointed to executive committees still receive corporate PAC donations,” he said.
“Instead of racing for numbers, the CPC should consider demanding stricter membership criteria-- such as rejecting corporate PAC money, co-sponsoring priority legislation, and willingness to engage in bloc voting-- otherwise progressive ideas risk being significantly watered down,” he said.
Zachery Warmbrodt also mentioned Ocasio-Cortez's likely assignment to House Financial Services and also referred to it as "a victory for progressives fighting to curb Wall Street's clout in Washington and inside the Democratic Party itself." I'm, a little wary that Pelosi is going to put that kind of power into the hands of genuine-- rather than Pocan-manufactured-- progressives. Something doesn't smell right here. Warmbrodt wrote that the assignment "would pit the 29-year-old New Yorker not only against banks that make up a major local industry but also potentially against business-friendly [outside the Beltway, that means stinking of corruption and in need of a long prison sentence, but "business-friendly" sounds more genteel] Democrats who have backed financial deregulation. Some moderate [again-- corrupt conservatives are described as "moderate" in Politico] Democrats have privately raised concerns that they’ll be targeted by the former bartender-turned-progressive icon, whose willingness to challenge her party’s establishment propelled her to Congress and the national spotlight... Ocasio-Cortez, who identifies as a democratic socialist, has criticized Democrats for supporting deregulation. She has also shunned corporate campaign donations-- traditionally a big draw for lawmakers to join the Financial Services Committee. 'This is why I am running for Congress," Ocasio-Cortez said after the House passed a sweeping set of banking rollbacks in June 2017. 'Because we cannot stand idly as big banks gut every last protection working families have left.'" The corrupt sack of runny shit who she defeated, Joe Crowley, was a big-time bankster-buddy who served on the House Ways and Means Committee and was happy to be the proud recipient of $7,446,114 in bribes from the Finance Sector, $1,276,890 last year alone.
With a single tweet, Ocasio-Cortez could frustrate efforts by moderate Democrats to cut deregulatory deals with Republicans, said Jeff Hauser, who tracks corporate influence as executive director of the Revolving Door Project.
"When industry lobbyists or their shills in Congress throw shade at a new member, it probably reflects a genuine fear that the newcomers will become a force for fixing a broken system," said Porter McConnell, campaign director of the Take On Wall Street coalition.
Lobbyists privately expressed mixed views on the prospect of her joining the committee. Some see her as a potential threat when it comes to Democrats working out legislation with Republicans. But others say she will be one among dozens on the committee and that it will be difficult for a low-ranking member to make noise.
For Waters, who is touting a committee agenda focused on consumer protection and housing, having an outspoken Democrat to her left could be a new kind of test, in addition to the tensions she has faced with more centrist members who have been more willing to work with Republicans. ["Centrist" at Politico means right-of-center but not fascist.]
But Waters has praised the fighting spirit of incoming lawmakers, and her own agenda could be bolstered by recruiting like-minded members. In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, the committee is expected to take on other new progressive members including possibly Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), a protégé of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
"You're going to see a new kind of approach in the hearings that we have," Waters said in a recent MSNBC interview. "They're going to come right out with it. They won't be ashamed. They won't be afraid. They really believe in what they're doing. I think that's good for the institution."
..."Who knows," said [Rep. Lacy Clay, a real sleaze bag on the committee]. "She may deal with some issues over this first term and her supporters may start referring to her as a sellout."
Apparently he thinks everyone is just like he is. AOC isn't-- and neither is Katie Porter.