TTP Investigation: Big Tech’s Backdoor to the FTC
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 12, 2021
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report mapping how Big Tech-funded George Mason University has infiltrated the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one of the tech industry’s primary regulators. One of the key findings revolves around Joshua Wright, a former Republican FTC commissioner who heads GMU’s Global Antitrust Institute. TTP obtained an FTC inspector general report, which found that a former senior FTC official, which Bloomberg Businessweek confirmed to be Wright, repeatedly tried to persuade former colleagues at the agency to settle an antitrust lawsuit against Qualcomm in 2017, in violation of lobbying restrictions. Qualcomm is a major funder of Wright’s Global Antitrust Institute.
TTP’s research also sheds light on the extensive revolving door and internship pipeline between GMU and the FTC, which raise new questions about whether Big Tech is using this arrangement to capture a critical regulator.
CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “It’s not a coincidence that one of the FTC’s biggest recruiting pools happens to be an institution run by one of its former commissioners. Joshua Wright’s actions since leaving the FTC show that he continues to try to influence the direction of the agency towards a more hands-off regulatory ideology, and he’s using his position at GMU to do so.”
TTP’s investigation found that at least 14 senior FTC officials in recent years had ties to GMU, and at least six FTC officials have taken a full trip through the revolving door, cycling back and forth between the agency and teaching positions at the GMU law school. Big Tech executives and attorneys at the law firms that represent the companies have also been featured as guest speakers, lecturers, and even teachers in GMU law courses, further demonstrating the cozy relationship between the industry and the university. At least 50 GMU students, most from the law school, have served as FTC interns or law clerks.
With the FTC now playing an important role in scrutinizing the power of big technology companies, GMU’s deep presence at the agency requires attention.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “These findings raise serious questions about how much influence George Mason University maintains over the direction of a crucial regulatory body. It’s completely unacceptable that a small club of like-minded thinkers have so much influence over a government agency that should be instituting policies based on current regulatory needs, not the whims of wealthy corporations.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.