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Against Khanservatism


President Joe Biden’s Federal Trade Commission is helmed by a radical activist that wants to remake the economy in service of progressive political goals.

In recent weeks, beltway media outlets have cherry picked quotes from a few Republicans to paint a false picture of support for FTC Chair Lina Khan among the broader Republican conference. In reality, the Republican conference is in lockstep against Khan’s left-wing agenda, and the few Republicans who embrace Khan are doing so at their own peril.

The 34-year old Khan is a product of the Open Markets Institute, a far-left activist group funded by billionaires like Pierre Omidyar that pushes for Big Tech censorship of conservatives. After Khan’s confirmation as FTC commissioner in summer 2021, Biden bamboozled senators by immediately elevating her to chair behind closed doors, the first FTC chair in decades without prior agency experience.

As FTC chair, Khan has aggressively increased government control over the economy. Khan moved quickly to consolidate power in the chair and silence Republican commissioners. Khan jettisoned the consumer welfare standard, which stipulates that business conduct must harm consumers to violate antitrust law. Divorcing antitrust from the consumer welfare standard has allowed Khan to sue businesses and block mergers for political reasons.

Some of Khan’s defenders have asserted that there is no underlying progressive motivation for Khan’s agenda. Nonsense. Khan herself has spoken of the need for the government in “shaping markets and economic outcomes.” Khan’s deputy, FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, advocates for a “Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism” antitrust agenda.

Khan uses her power to provide political cover for Democrats and the Biden administration all the time. Biden’s fiscal policies have kicked off generation-high inflation that Biden blames on corporate greed. Like clockwork, Khan came out with a study on supply chains and retail prices that blamed corporate greed for high grocery prices. This is a far cry from politics-free antitrust enforcement.

If personnel is policy, Khan’s FTC is likely the most left-wing agency in American history. Khan’s chief of staff is Sarah Miller, the founder of George Soros-backed American Economic Liberties Project. Miller’s husband, former Bernie Sanders’ aide Faiz Shakir, took over as AELP interim director when Miller departed for the FTC.

“Khanservatives” who ignore these facts have their heads in the sand and should know better than to join arms with progressive activists. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said: “Her work against some of the consolidated market power that hurts consumers has really inspired me.” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) has said that Khan is the “best person” in the Biden administration. These are quotes you would expect from an MSNBC “Republican” contributor, not a Republican lawmaker.

The establishment media prints quotes like these because left-wing reporters love nothing more than to put Republican fingerprints on the expansion of government power. Khan rarely – if ever – has reciprocated the fulsome praise that “Khanservatives” have lavished on her. She uses her enemies’ willingness to collaborate until she can eventually turn on them.

Fortunately, the broader Republican conference recognizes the damage Khan is doing and is working to rein her in. House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has said Khan has “been terrible” and blasted Khan for making “it clear she will use the FTC to advance President Biden’s agenda in the name of economic ‘inequality’ and socialism.” The House Judiciary Committee released a blockbuster report in February based “on internal documents and transcribed interviews with Federal Trade Commission (FRC personnel” that “chronicles Chair Lina Khan’s neglect and mismanagement of the agency in furtherance of her personal pursuit of political and ideological aims.”

Senate Republicans also oppose Khan’s agenda. Senate Commerce Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has launched an investigation into Khan’s “mismanagement of the agency and mistreatment of staffers.” Just last week, 38 Senate Republicans signed a letter urging the FTC “to follow the law and the facts” in evaluating oil and gas mergers instead of weaponizing the review process to make it easier for Democrats to pass the Green New Deal.

The vast majority of Republicans in Congress oppose Khan’s agenda because they know empowering her will only backfire on conservatives. The precious few who embrace Khan’s approach because they oppose Big Tech censorship are deluding themselves into thinking Khan will stop at Big Tech.

Khan’s ultimate goal is to put every business in a “Mother-May-I” relationship with the federal government.

The next time you read a story about “Khanservatives” praising the weaponized FTC, remember one thing – there is nothing conservative about what Lina Khan is doing.

Tom Hebert is Director of Competition and Regulatory Policy at Americans for Tax Reform and executive director of the Open Competition Center.

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


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