Conservatives Aim to Cool GOP's Newfound Antitrust Fervor

July 29, 2020

In Axios: Antitrust laws don't need updating, big isn't bad and American success should not be punished, argues a new conservative coalition pushing back on Republicans who view antitrust action as the remedy for their grievances with Big Tech.

 

Why it matters: A fragile bipartisan consensus that there's too much power concentrated in Silicon Valley is helping to propel federal and state antitrust investigations of major tech firms. Right-leaning groups troubled by that development are looking to rally like-minded conservatives to their side.

 

Driving the news: The Alliance on Antitrust officially launches today, the same day the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook are set to testify in a major antitrust hearing. The new group brings together more than a dozen right-of-center groups and individuals and is spearheaded by the Committee for Justice, a Republican group that promotes conservative judicial nominees.

 

The coalition formed in response to calls to weaponize antitrust for broader purposes, Ashley Baker, director of public policy at the Committee for Justice, told Axios.

 

Context: Some Republicans in the Trump administration, Congress and state AGs' offices say antitrust action can help address concerns like their claim that tech platforms are biased against conservatives.

 

That's a sharp break from decades of GOP agreement that the government should give private enterprise a wide berth and only step in with antitrust enforcement if there's clear evidence of harm to consumers, chiefly measured by whether powerful companies raise prices.

 

"We're concerned about the direction this debate is taking," Baker said. "The debate is all over the place, and people are conflating content moderation with antitrust."

 

Members include traditionally Republican groups, including: Conservatives for Property Rights, National Taxpayers Union, the American Legislative Exchange Council, FreedomWorks, Innovation Defense Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste, Institute for Policy Innovation, Taxpayers Protection Alliance and Digital Liberty.

 

Four state-based policy groups have joined as well, due to concerns over what they see as politicization of antitrust by state attorneys general who are investigating major technology companies.

 

What next: Baker said group members will be sending letters to Congress, including one sent this morning to the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee convening today's hearing, urging lawmakers to not let conversations about antitrust get mixed up in privacy and content moderation concerns.

 

Former Trump administration official Stephen Moore, now working with the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, has signed onto the letter as well.

 

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