TTP Report: Amazon, Google Tap Bork Legacy to Fight Antitrust Critics
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 31, 2023
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 outlining how Robert Bork Jr.—son of the late Republican Supreme Court nominee—has become an important weapon in Big Tech’s efforts to weaken President Biden’s tech regulators and derail bipartisan action on tech reform in Congress. With an Amazon-funded organization, the Antitrust Education Project (AEP), and a public relations firm that counts Google as a client, Bork Jr. has leveraged his father’s legacy in antitrust law to mount an aggressive defense of Big Tech companies—and rally conservatives to the side of consolidated corporate power.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Robert Bork Jr. is unique among Big Tech’s lackeys in how he uses his family name to attack the industry’s critics. While cashing checks from Google and Amazon, he’s worked relentlessly to discredit Biden administration regulators who are applying some much-needed antitrust scrutiny to the tech sector.”
Bork formed AEP in January 2021 with Elliot Berke, a well-connected Washington lawyer who represents House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other top Republicans in Congress. The project says it’s devoted to fighting the “recent deterioration of American antitrust theory.” Although the group makes no mention of funding sources, Amazon disclosures reveal it gave AEP “$10,000 or more” in 2021 and 2022. While the exact amount is unknown, Amazon has spent heavily on the antitrust fight in Washington, reportedly giving more than $1 million to another group fighting antitrust legislation, the Competitiveness Coalition.
One of AEP’s primary activities is attacking Lina Khan, President Biden’s pick to head the Federal Trade Commission. The group has tweeted about Khan more than 300 times, and Bork has written more than 30 blog posts and op-eds excoriating her background and record. Amazon—AEP’s funder—clearly views Khan as a threat. Two weeks after Khan was confirmed and named chair of the FTC, Amazon pushed for her recusal on matters involving the company, arguing that she would be unable to keep an “open mind” given her past writings about the tech giant. Those writings include Khan’s influential 2017 academic article, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which argued for a new legal approach to competition that was sharply at odds with Robert Bork Sr.’s seminal book, “The Antitrust Paradox.”
AEP has also attacked the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, Jonathan Kanter, dozens of times since he was nominated by Biden in July 2021. In a series of tweets that month, the group slammed Kanter for having a “public animus toward Google” and said his nomination showed that the Biden administration wants to “punish the companies that drive our economy.” At no time did AEP disclose that Google was a client of Bork Jr.’s PR firm—or that many of AEP’s advisory board members work for organizations that have been funded by Google.
In addition to attacking Biden regulators, Bork Jr. has sought to peel Republicans away from bipartisan tech reform legislation. Last year, he did a series of opinion pieces and interviews in conservative media taking aim at GOP senators who joined Democrats in backing the American Innovation and Choice Online (AICO) Act. The measure would have prevented tech companies from using their platforms to disadvantage competitors, meaning Amazon couldn’t promote its own brand over third-party sellers on its website. Ultimately, the massive influence campaign by Amazon and other Big Tech companies succeeded in killing AICO and other tech reform bills during the last Congress.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “AEP’s tactics are all too familiar, and it’s important to follow the money: As Bork Jr. paints Biden administration regulators as radical ideologues, he has connections to two of the country’s biggest tech companies, Amazon and Google, which are trying to shield their business interests in Washington.”
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.