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Biden exploits progressives favorite for DOJ antitrust post

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) And Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) – whose 2020 presidential elections included important calls for greater enforcement of antitrust laws – hailed the selection of Kanter, who will join the adviser White House Tim Wu and the Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan in the trio of progressive tech critics in senior positions in Biden’s administration.

“He has been a leader in the struggle to control the consolidated power of corporations and to strengthen competition in our markets,” said Warren.

Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washing.), the vice-chair of the Judicial Chamber’s antitrust subcommittee and progressive leader in the lower house, said she welcomed Kanter’s efforts to “reduce Big Tech’s anti-competitive practices, end monopoly practices and promote l ‘equity”.

If Senate confirms, Kanter would lead DOJ division that filed an antitrust complaint against Google in October, the first such federal complaint against a big tech powerhouse since the Clinton administration tried to dismantle Microsoft in the 1990s. But it may not have a smooth road: House ethics officials Blanche had raised red flags over hiring antitrust officials with a habit of representing critics of tech giants, as reported by POLITICO.

White House official declined to comment directly on recusal issue Tuesday, stating only “we are confident to move forward with Kanter for the job given his background and expertise.”

Google declined to comment on Kanter’s selection for the job. The search giant is in a particularly acrimonious rivalry with Microsoft, which, despite being one of the richest companies in the world, has established itself in DC as a critic of dominant online platforms.

From Big Law to Critical Big Tech: Kanter began his career as a lawyer with the Federal Trade Commission before moving into private practice. Protected from Rick Rule, a Republican who served as the antitrust chief of President Ronald Reagan’s DOJ, Kanter represented Microsoft when it settled the Justice Department’s investigation in the early 2000s and then through the struggles of the undertaken with European antitrust authorities.

He also represented companies such as US Airways when it merged with American Airlines and health insurer Cigna when its deal with Anthem broke.

But he is best known for his work on technology, representing Microsoft and subsequent clients such as Yelp, News Corp. and Mapbox in antitrust battles against Google. More recently, he has also represented companies that have filed antitrust complaints against Apple and Amazon.

Last year, Kanter left the Paul Weiss law firm to set up his own antitrust law firm, the Kanter Law Group.

His early criticism of tech giants on antitrust grounds and his support for more aggressive enforcement made him a favorite of progressives and anti-monopoly advocates, who urged the Biden administration to avoid Obama-era antitrust law enforcement officials when making their own choices.

And after: The position requires confirmation from the Senate. Once the White House officially sends it to the Senate, the Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing – likely in September or October, given the upcoming Congressional recess in August.

Progressive victory round: For months, anti-monopoly activists have been pushing for a trio of Big Tech critics to join the Biden administration, including Wu, who is now an adviser to Biden’s National Economic Council, and Khan, whom Biden elevated to FTC chairman last month after his Senate confirmation. Kanter was their final choice.

At a party in Washington last week to celebrate the publication of the Facebook exhibit “An Ugly Truth” by two New York Times reporters, Wu was seen carrying the coffee mug that has become an evolving business card: Wu & Khan & Kanter.

Progressive groups were thrilled by Tuesday’s news, calling it a clear sign that Biden intends to make up for the Obama administration’s antitrust loopholes with tough enforcers.

Sarah Miller, executive director of the anti-monopoly group American Economic Liberties Project, said Kanter had “the experience, the values, and the intellectual forethought” to fight concentrated corporate power.

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