The Senate Judiciary Committee approved former corporate attorney and Big Tech critic Jonathan Kanter, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division, in a nearly unanimous voice vote Thursday.
Kanter, 48, was nominated by Biden to head the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) antitrust department in July. The Senate Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approved Kanter, with only Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas voting against the nomination.
Like current Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, Kanter’s stance on Big Tech has earned him bipartisan support.
“The biggest problems we face in the tech sector today have to do with the hyper-concentration,” said Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who voted to advance Kanter’s nomination, during the hearing, approving of Kanter’s “understanding that the hyper-concentration in the tech sector is a big problem.”
Kanter’s nomination will now head to the Senate floor, where he is expected to be confirmed given strong bipartisan backing.
Kanter currently heads Kanter Law Group, which described itself as an “antitrust advocacy boutique” and an “advocacy-focused law firm,” the Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported. According to Kanter’s disclosure forms filed with the Office of Government Ethics, Kanter has received as much as $20 million over from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, representing clients including Microsoft in lawsuits against major tech companies, including Google.
If confirmed, Kanter will preside over at least one antitrust complaint against Google. A central question to his tenure at the DOJ will be whether he must recuse himself from the lawsuit.
“By any metric, there is no good argument to have Jonathan Kanter do this,” Carl Szabo, general counsel at NetChoice, a technology trade organization that includes Apple and Google, told the DCNF.
Szabo argued that Kanter should have to recuse himself in accordance with federal law, citing federal regulations governing appointments which state that nominees may be forced to recuse themselves if they “create an appearance of a conflict of interest likely to affect the public perception of the integrity of the investigation or prosecution.”
“Even if Mr. Kanter is able to expunge his thoughts and feelings and prior work, his sheer presence creates the impression of bias, which violates federal statutes, and more importantly, public trust,” Szabo said.
A spokesperson for the Office of Government Ethics declined to comment on Kanter, but told the DCNF that nominees who serve as prosecutors against companies they investigate in their role with the government are subject to an in-depth review that will determine if recusal is necessary.
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