Chuck Schumer should recuse himself from Big Tech votes like he did with Comcast

Posted July 22, 2022, 3:03 PM

The following letter was sent to Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer on July 22, 2022. For press inquiries: press@fightforthefuture.org

July 22, 2022
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Majority Leader
United States Senate 
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Majority Leader Schumer,

With just weeks before Congress goes to recess, we are increasingly concerned that two historic, bipartisan antitrust bills will fail to become law as a result of your refusal to put them up for a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate. While you have claimed to support antitrust legislation seeking to rein in Big Tech companies, your continued failure to put the bills to a full Senate vote raises the question of whether you are covertly seeking to run out the clock before the legislation can pass. Given your documented familial and political ties to Big Tech, we write today to request you to recuse yourself from floor decisions surrounding S.2992 and S.2710. Specifically, this would mean leaving the decision on whether and when S.2992 and S.2710 will be brought to the floor for a vote to Majority Whip Durbin. 

As you know, your support for Comcast’s purchase of Time Warner Cable in 2014 was widely scrutinized given your brother Robert Schumer’s work as one of the key attorneys involved in the deal. In response to the ethical questions surrounding your support for the deal, your office announced you would recuse yourself “from Congressional consideration of the matter to avoid any appearance of bias.” Seeing as how your decision on whether to hold floor votes for S.2992 and S.2710 is reportedly the primary determinant in whether they will make it into law, it would be appropriate for you to follow the same ethical standard in this matter.

Observers have long speculated that your familial connections to Big Tech companies have influenced your positions on tech regulation issues. As early as 2014, the Washington Post noted that you have at times “had to tread delicately because of family connections to the [tech] industry,” with your daughter’s employment at Facebook highlighted specifically. Amid a historic legislative battle for antitrust reform, the fact that one of your daughters is a registered lobbyist for Amazon, while another works as a marketing manager for Facebook owner Meta, has not gone unnoticed. 

Both Amazon and Facebook/Meta have lobbied aggressively against this legislation, with your daughter Alison’s employer, Facebook/Meta, going so far as to fund a front group called American Edge that has itself spent millions attempting to defeat this legislation. Similarly, your daughter Jessica’s client, Amazon, has poured millions into groups such as CCIA, Taxpayer Protection Alliance, The Competitiveness Coalition, and other organizations erected to push misinformation about this legislation. The appearance of your conflicts of interest are compounded by recent reports on social media that you apparently visited Amazon and Microsoft executives for a fundraising trip near their respective headquarters just last week. These conflicts and fundraising trips are hard to square with statements from your office that you support this legislation or your past recusals when similar questions have been raised.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act are the single best opportunity Congress has to rein in the abusive practices of Big Tech monopolies. Indeed, the tech giants are well aware of this themselves, and have launched a historically expensive lobbying blitz to sabotage the legislation. The mere appearance that the Senate Majority Leader is doing the bidding of tech monopolists despite wide public support for antitrust reform due to his familial connections stands to further erode the American people’s confidence in Congress. Recusing yourself from floor vote deliberations for the bipartisan antitrust bills is an ethically sound option that would follow precedent you yourself set in 2014 and would help restore confidence in your leadership and in Congress.

Sincerely,

American Economic Liberties Project
Demand Progress
Fight Corporate Monopolies
Fight for the Future
The Freedom Bloc
Jobs with Justice
Institute for Local Self Reliance
Local First Arizona
MPower Change Action Fund
Other 98
Main Street Alliance
Revolving Door Project
RootsAction.org
Shop Local Raleigh/Greater Raleigh Merchants Association
UltraViolet