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Antitrust tech reform opponent Lou Correa, leading contender for key role

Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) questions Intelligence Committee Minority Counsel Stephen Castor and Intelligence Committee Majority Counsel Daniel Goldman during the House impeachment inquiry hearings before the committee House Judiciary on Capitol Hill on December 9, 2019 in Washington, DC.

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A California lawmaker who has opposed crackdown efforts by the tech industry is the leading candidate to become the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust.

Rep. Lou Correa, who represents part of Southern California, is considered the likely successor to former ranking member David Cicilline, DR.I., according to four sources who spoke in private discussions. Cicilline previously announced that he would leave Congress effective June 1.

If Correa were to take on this role, it would represent a sharp reversal of attitude at the top of the subcommittee, which a few years earlier had carried out a massive investigation into Amazon, Apple, Google And Facebook which found every monopoly power maintained. Under Cicilline, the CEOs of each company faced hours of grilling in front of the panel. The Judiciary Committee also succeeded in passing a set of antitrust bills aimed at limiting the power of major industry players by preventing them from promoting their own products in their markets or prohibiting the ownership of two companies that present a conflict. of interest.

Things could still change, but Correa is well placed given his seniority. Correa’s team discussed with court staff possible priorities for the subcommittee, according to a House staffer, and a vote could take place within the next two weeks.

A spokesperson for Correa declined to comment.

A senior Democratic official described the prospect of Correa becoming a ranking member as a “big boon for tech companies.” If he wins the top Democratic job, he will sit alongside Speaker Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who was chosen over former ranking member of the panel, Rep. Ken Buck, R- Color. Buck has been the top Republican champion of tech antitrust bills.

While Cicilline and Buck championed bills aimed at cracking down on what they saw as unfair practices by big tech companies and supported increased funding for antitrust agencies, Correa opposed the antitrust bills. technologies and voted against legislation that would raise funds for the Federal Trade Commission. and Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice.

Democrats are in the minority in the House, so whoever holds the position won’t be able to set the subcommittee’s agenda. But multiple sources who spoke to CNBC said Correa’s track record suggests tech antitrust would take a back seat on the subcommittee for a while if it gets the go-ahead. Already, the kinds of bills that rolled out of the Judiciary Committee in the summer of 2021 are now stalled with the help of tech lobbying.

Correa received the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce during his 2022 campaign. The Chamber notably opposed progressive action by the FTC and warned that legislative reforms in the United States could undermine the economic security of the country. Since 2018, Correa has received around $17,000 in donations from political action committees of tech companies, including those at Amazon, Google and Meta.

Correa is unlikely to be a popular choice among progressive bands. Groups like the Demand Progress Education Fund, Economic Security Project Action and Fight for the Future urged the committee in April to select a replacement for Cicilline “with an equally strong commitment to anti-monopoly policies” who voted for all bills in the House. Forensic Technology Antitrust Package.

Several senior members of the subcommittee who support tech antitrust reform would have seemed more likely candidates for the Democratic seat not too long ago. But the field is complicated by the fact that many of them already have ranking member positions in other subcommittees that they may not want to give up. That includes former Antitrust Subcommittee Vice Chairman Joe Neguse, D-Colo., as well as Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

Even so, the senior Democratic aide said the focus on tech antitrust issues isn’t going away entirely, even as they become less of a concern in the House. The aide pointed to ongoing efforts by the White House and enforcement agencies to address digital competition issues.

“These issues are still there,” the assistant said. “They’re not leaving.”

WATCH: Here’s why some experts are calling for a breakup of Big Tech after the House antitrust report


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