Big News at The FTC: Democrats Finally Get the Majority Back
On May 11, 2022, with a 51-50 vote, the Senate confirmed a fifth commissioner at the FTC—Alvaro Bedoya.
That means the FTC—unlike the FCC—is now back at full strength, with a full complement of 5 Commissioners. Three are Democrats. Two are Republicans. And by the looks of things, the new-look FTC will be more aggressive in pursuit of telemarketers and robocallers than during the Trump administration.
That, of course, is a good news bad news situation. All Americans can agree that scam calls need to stop. But there is good cause for concern that an overly-aggressive FTC might stimy an already-rocky economy.
But let’s dive in here.
First, Who is Alvaro Bedoya? For some background, Alvaro Bedoya was the founding director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology. In addition, Bedoya co-authored a 2016 report on the use of facial recognition by law enforcement and the risks that it poses to privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights. Bedoya graduated from Harvard University and holds a J.D. from Yale law school.
Second, what is the impact of Bedoya’s addition? Well prior to Bedoya joining the Commission, the Commission was headed by only four Commissioners—Lina M. Khan (chair), Noah Joshua Phillips, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, and Christine Wilson. While Linda M. Khan and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter are Democrats, Noah Joshua Phillips and Christine Wilson are Republicans. I’m sure you guys can see how this was problematic.
If Khan wanted to do anything that needed the Commission’s vote, she would need at least one Republic to support it or the vote would end up in a gridlock. However, Khan would still be able to push things along that didn’t need the other Commissioners' vote. Luckily for Khan, with Bedoya on the Commission now, the Democrats automatically have the majority. Notably, Khan has indicated that now with Bedoya, the FTC will be looking into data privacy—which may make big tech companies feel a bit uneasy, seeing that their companies rely heavily on data information.
As Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer put it, “With the FTC at full membership, this important agency will be empowered to drive full steam ahead in cracking down on bad actor companies who are using anticompetitive practices, inflation, and price manipulation to bilk consumers and drive up profits.” Additionally, now that the FTC is at its full force, it is predicted that the FTC will be diving deeper into privacy issues, including consumer data and facial recognition.
Notably, the Republicans were aggressive in their condemnation of Bedoya, and the nomination just squeaked past. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Bedoya a “foolish choice” and an “awful nomination” and Sen. Ted Cruz accused Bedoya of being a “left-wing activity, a provocateur, a bomb-thrower, and an extremist.”
I mean, geez, guys. Not saying I agree that Bedoya is a good nominee but to call a Yale J.D. “awful” and "a bomb-thrower” feels a bit… over the top.
In any event, antitrust reformists and privacy advocates are more than thrilled with Bedoya’s confirmation. Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, stated “Alongside Chair Lina Khan and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, we can finally envision an effective FTC that plays a vital role in leveling the playing field and restoring our nation’s economy.”
One thing is for sure, the FTC will certainly look to impose its will on robocallers and marketers in the coming months. We will keep a close eye on developments.