California lawmakers back the ‘goose that lays the golden eggs’ in antitrust fight

The Californians could be major objectors as a group of moderate Democrats has already raised concerns about the impact of the bills on privacy and cybersecurity and support for the GOP is shared. While the bills have bipartisan sponsorship, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, the powerful California legislature who retains significant influence over his party, has been a vocal opponent of the bills.

And with California lawmakers forming one of the largest delegations in Congress – 42 Democrats and 11 Republicans – other critics could join the current group.

Minutes after the committee passed the last of six bills on Thursday, Lofgren, Issa and Correa, along with Reps. Eric Swalwell (D) and Tom McClintock (R), issued a statement arguing that the marathon serve “ contained several bills that would radically change America ”. leading technology companies and made it crystal clear that the legal text discussed is far from ready to be considered by the floor. “

The group has employed a variety of tactics and arguments to fight off the toughest regulations and show no signs of giving in. Issa proposed a number of amendments that would have weakened or even fundamentally changed the legislation, and urged the debate to be prolonged, even as the mark-up reached well past midnight on Wednesday. “I hope we don’t have to adjourn so quickly,” he said around 5:00 in the morning. House Justice Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) Said a change Issa proposed Thursday would “destroy everything we try to do”. (It was ultimately rejected.)

Issa also hit the bills from all angles, calling it “an unprecedented expansion of the great government, an invitation to China to gain even more access to our data, the creation of new and broader powers for the Biden government regulators and a grave -Bag “. of anti-business provisions that do not empower consumers and, in the best case scenario, will create a multiple of problem units from the currently larger ones. “

Many in the group of California critics have one more thing in common: large donations from technology companies that would be harmed by the bills. Lofgren received direct Tens of thousands of dollars from Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft, and the National Venture Capital Association since she came to Congress. Issa is one of Google’s parent company Alphabet and the Consumer Technology Association as two of his top campaign donors. And Facebook employees were some of the key contributors to Swalwell’s campaign about his career.

Lofgren, Swalwell and Correa jointly voted against five of the six antitrust laws.

Swalwell raised his legislative concerns over lunch with the California delegation last week. “I have thousands of voters working in tech,” Swalwell said in an interview. He said he was particularly concerned about how the legislation would affect privacy for companies like Apple and has spoken with tech workers in his district for the past few weeks who have raised concerns about how the bills will affect their tech – Employers. “In my district, innovation is in our DNA,” he said.

The tech companies, who have been aggressively lobbying against California lawmakers in particular, have argued that the legislation could harm the products consumers value or inadvertently harm small businesses. “The bills would ask us to degrade our services and prevent us from providing critical features that hundreds of millions of Americans use,” said Mark Isakowitz, Google’s vice president of government affairs and public order.

Rep. Ro Khanna, a Silicon Valley Democrat who opposes antitrust laws, has argued that it wasn’t favoritism – he and other California lawmakers weren’t afraid to criticize tech companies for breaches of privacy or spreading misinformation their platforms. Lofgren and California Democrat Anna Eshoo, for example, promoted a privacy law that has been aggressively opposed by all major tech companies.

“I don’t think they are biased against these companies,” said Khanna, who stated that he was generally in favor of antitrust reform, but felt that these particular bills were “poorly drafted”.

California critics of the bills “want something that will pass the drafting, a chance to pass the Senate and not make the situation worse,” said Khanna. He added that he hoped Pelosi will step in to bring more “nuances” into the debate.

But House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi publicly broke up with these compatriots in California on Thursday, saying she supported the overhaul and would not cancel it because she feared it would harm innovation or tech companies.

“We will not ignore the consolidation that has taken place” [in the tech industry] and the concern that exists on both sides of the aisle, “Pelosi told reporters.

So far, Pelosi has remained aloof from the House Justice Committee investigation, which began two years ago and lasted 18 months. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), The chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee and head of the digital markets investigation, said he and his staff had kept Pelosi’s office informed throughout the investigation.

“In my opinion [Pelosi] will continue to respect our committee process, ”said Cicilline. He said he hadn’t spoken to her office about whether she intended to negotiate the bills, adding that members of the committee plan to work together to update the legislation after the tedious markup process.

The California opposition angered several members of the House Judiciary Committee who accused their colleagues of being a victim of extensive industry lobbying. MP Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Whose district Amazon is part of, told her colleagues, “I see – I have big tech in my district.”

“I’m grateful for what they do, I’m grateful for the jobs they offer, but why aren’t we talking about small businesses in this country?” Said Jayapal. She later said in an interview that Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google have “tremendous power on both sides of the aisle”.

“They will keep pushing their agenda,” she said.

It is rare for the California delegation to speak with one voice on any subject, given the wide variety of its constituencies. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., Whose district borders east of Los Angeles and is not a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he plans to investigate how the bills “affect not just businesses across the board, but also affect the people “who work for them.” His district includes content creators, emerging tech companies, and labor unions, each with very different opinions on whether government should oppose the size and power of the big tech companies.

Proponents of the legislation plan to initiate an “educational process” for their California counterparts to address their concerns.

Cicilline said he plans to tell his Golden State colleagues how his legislation would help “new businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators develop”.

“We have a lot to do, of course,” he added.

Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.

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