Politics

Biden’s Telecom Pick Gigi Sohn Denied Vote, Scheduled For Second Hearing Over Potential Conflicts

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Ailan Evans Associate Editor
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President Joe Biden’s nominee for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Gigi Sohn will have to face a second hearing and will not receive a committee vote due to lingering concerns over her past conflicts.

The Senate Commerce Committee will reconsider Sohn’s nomination in a tentatively planned hearing on Feb. 9, according to two people familiar with the matter, granting the request of Republican Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, who asked for another hearing over discrepancies between her testimony during her first hearing in December and a confidential agreement to settle a lawsuit by broadcasters. In addition, Sohn’s committee vote, which was initially scheduled for Wednesday, will be delayed, in part due to Democratic New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Lujan suffering a stroke earlier Tuesday.

Sohn’s second hearing was first reported by Fox News. The hearing is partly in response to concerns held by Senate Commerce Committee members over Sohn’s involvement with an illegal streaming service, according to a person familiar with the matter. (RELATED: Biden’s FCC Nominee Gigi Sohn Wants To ‘Silence Dissent,’ Top Senate Republicans Say)

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) speaks during a news conference on a petition to force a vote on net neutrality on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Also pictured are Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images) | Dems Push Net Neutrality CRA Sans McCain

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) speaks during a news conference on a petition to force a vote on net neutrality on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Also pictured are Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Sohn previously served as director of Locast, an online streaming service that retransmitted local television broadcasts over the internet. The organization was shut down in October 2021 after broadcasters sued and a judge ruled the service to be in violation of copyright law, requiring it to pay $32 million in damages.

However, one day after she was nominated, Sohn cut a confidential favorable deal with broadcasters, whom she would be tasked with regulating if confirmed, to lower her liability to a fraction of the previous amount. Following news of the confidential arrangement, Sohn recused herself from certain broadcast issues, prompting criticism from telecommunications groups.

“Questions about Ms. Sohn’s potential conflicts of interest have been dismissed as without merit by the White House and Ms. Sohn’s friends in the telecommunications advocacy community. Now comes this unprecedented recusal,” Wicker said in a statement at the time, shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The FCC is too important to have a commissioner who cannot serve in a significant capacity.”

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is the only Senate Commerce Democrat yet to publicly back Sohn’s nomination.

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