HAVENS: It’s Clear Who Biden’s FTC Commissioner Melissa Holyoak Is Working For … And It’s Not The American People

Ziven Havens Contributor
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When President Biden nominated Melissa Holyoak to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), industry observers warned that she would be too friendly to Big Tech — and it’s now clear that they were right. It’s taken less than two months for her to make clear that she’ll stand in the way of bipartisan efforts to rein in Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, and undo all the economic and social damage they’re causing.

Many conservative activists were incensed at Holyoak’s nomination. Her previous roles, including at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), made it crystal-clear that she could not be trusted to insulate our economy from the depredations of the tech giants, incursions by China, or any of the other threats American businesses face. CEI is entirely captured by Big Tech, openly committed to completely eliminating the government’s power to hold monopolies accountable, and has raked in tens of thousands from corporate villains like Google and Facebook in exchange for sustained propaganda against agencies (including the FTC itself) that protect Americans. CEI praised Facebook even as it was facing a scandal over its data protection practices, and at Holyoak’s own direction it fought to overturn a class action settlement Google reached in court. CEI even objects to President Trump’s China tariff pledge, and mocked the ex-president’s lawsuit to have his Twitter access restored as a “publicity stunt.”

After Holyoak left CEI, she stayed friends with her CEI pals, chatting over email about legal strategy — including its president, Kent Lassman, who described the FTC this way in an email to her: “The place is horrible and burning it to the ground is too good for it.” For some reason, she was confirmed anyway, becoming a Big Tech plant committed to undermining the very agency she’ll be working for.

Unfortunately, early indications are confirming the worst fears about Holyoak for defenders of small business and the free market. As soon as she was sworn in in March, she selected Christopher Mufarrige as her chief of staff. Mufarrige is a lawyer trained at George Mason University — an institution in Big Tech’s pocket, funded to the tune of millions by Google in exchange for helping to shield them from accountability.

Mufarrige himself represented Big Tech as a high-dollar corporate lawyer at Wilson Sonsini, praising Google for swallowing up companies like DoubleClick, YouTube, and Waze, and helping Amazon investment target Anthropic bypass antitrust scrutiny. While in law school, he got to know disgraced GMU professor Joshua Wright, himself (like Holyoak) later serving as a fifth-columnist FTC commissioner opposed to antitrust enforcement, who was eventually pushed out of GMU due to sexual misconduct allegations.

This is the kind of person Holyoak has chosen to lean on while in a position of public trust, sworn to serve a mission she doesn’t appear to believe in. But it gets worse.

Holyoak also hired Douglas Geho away from Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan’s House Judiciary Committee staff as an advisor. In that role, he has been bluntly critical of the FTC and tried to hamstring efforts to hold Big Tech accountable. As chief counsel, Geho (known as Douglas El Sanadi until 2016) has been a key figure in Jordan’s committee work, including as a principal architect of a February staff report from the Judiciary Committee attacking the FTC and its chair, Lina Khan.

Geho also got Congressional staff training (and an all-expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley) from the Hoover Institution, a CEI-aligned conservative think tank actively opposed to anti-monopoly policy that’s located right in Big Tech’s backyard. Like Mufarrige, Geho attended a D.C. university whose legal scholars fight against accountability: Georgetown, which plays host to events with titles like “The Unintended Consequences of the Big Tech Antitrust Bills” and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Meta and Mark Zuckerberg. Academics confirm that big money from Big Tech influences their research, tilting points of view in favor of the companies.

Americans deserve FTC commissioners who believe in the agency’s mission and will work to ensure that businesses of all sizes get a fair chance, that giant corporations don’t gobble up all the gains of a healthy economy, and that Big Tech plays by the rules. Unfortunately, it’s now looking ever more likely that with Melissa Holyoak, that’s not what we got. It remains to be seen how much damage she’ll do in the months and years ahead.

Ziven Havens is the Policy Director of the Bull Moose Project, a 501c4 organization dedicated to advocating for policies that support a brighter American future. He was formerly an American Moment fellow at the Center for Renewing America.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.