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Obama’s FTC chairman has truly gone to the dark side

April 11th, 2018 at 9:01 PM

We enjoy reminding everyone that the current chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, is a former Verizon lobbyist. But Pai is far from being unique in the incestuous world of federal rule enforcement. Tom Wheeler, the Obama-appointed FCC chair who first enacted net neutrality rules, worked at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, two powerful industry lobbyists.

But it’s still disheartening to see officials walk out of their jobs enforcing rules, and flipping almost immediately back to the other side. DSL Reports has a good roundup of former FTC boss Jon Leibowitz’s actions since leaving the FTC, and they’re about as bad as you could script: Working for Comcast to kill net neutrality provisions.

As DSL Reports points out, Leibowitz is trading off his legacy at the FTC without disclosing that he’s being paid to do so by telecoms and tech firms. The disclaimer at the bottom of this editorial, for example, says that “Jon Leibowitz, a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell, was Federal Trade Commission chair from 2009-2013,” while only mentioning that “he is co-chair of the 21st Century Privacy Coalition, a trade group of broadband providers.” To be more specificl, the 21st Century Privacy Coalition spends over a million dollars a year lobbying for Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, to name a few.

Unsurprisingly, Leibowitz has also been dragged into individual state efforts to preserve net neutrality. He pushed two of the industry’s favorite talking points at a hearing in Massachusetts, saying that state net neutrality bills are “neither necessary nor wise,” as a free internet can — in the eyes of telecoms companies! — be upheld by a toothless FTC alone.

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