Antitrust Reform: A Trojan Horse Packed With Progressives And Crony Capitalists


This week, Senator Amy Klobuchar and the Judiciary Committee held a briefing to press for legislation that would fundamentally alter the purpose and powers of American antitrust law. The American Innovation and Choice Online and the Open App Markets Acts are just two of the antitrust bills circulating on Capitol Hill that would replace consumers with federal bureaucrats as the masterminds of business models and arbiters of economic success. This, in a country built on the entrepreneurial spirit of individuals, not the government.

Micro-management of businesses should not be handed over to politicians and government agencies – we’ve seen how this story plays out. Today’s attacks on ‘big tech’ harken back to twenty years ago, when a handful of big tech companies convinced politicians to use antitrust laws against an emerging competitors. In the late 1990s, lobbyists and executives from IBM, Sun, AOL, and Oracle pressured state attorneys general and the Justice Department to bring antitrust cases against Microsoft to hinder innovation and competition from Redmond. Now, it’s happening again – this time with a role reversal and new targets under attack.

Today, Microsoft is the crony capitalist seeking lawsuits and new laws to trip-up its competitors. And this time around, it’s progressives in Congress pushing new antitrust laws to enforce their social and climate justice agenda against corporations. The alliance, if successful, makes consumers the ultimate losers.   

In 1999 the crony capitalists going after Microsoft scored an initial court victory, with a federal judge ruling that Microsoft should be broken up. But an appeals court overturned the breakup, largely because our antitrust laws are based on preventing harm to consumers – not making things easier for competitors. 

Two decades later, the cronies are back and more clever than ever. Microsoft has flipped the script and is helping Oracle direct antitrust enforcement against their new competitors – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. But these antitrust cases are failing to show any consumer harm arising from the innovative products and services we get from these companies. To the contrary, Apple, Amazon and Google are hugely popular with consumers. So Microsoft and Oracle are pressing Congress to change the antitrust laws so they can put permanent roadblocks in front of their competitors.

There are two sides to the coin of crony capitalism: the conspiring companies and the lawmakers who take the bait. And Democrats in Congress are fully on-board, led by Jerry Nadler, David Cicilline, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar. 

These progressives want new antitrust powers in order to push progressive policies, and Klobuchar is leading the charge. Klobuchar’s new book on antitrust reveals her reasons for amping up antitrust law: “America’s courts are increasingly populated by conservative judges … who interpret the antitrust laws so narrowly.”  Progressives openly seek to control the decision-making process of American businesses. Armed with the weapon of antitrust authority, Progressives can reward businesses who behave “right” and punish those who don’t. As Sen. Bernie Sanders says, “Our job is to make certain that large mergers are only approved if they will not harm workers, consumers, our environment, and the economy.”

Progressives’ pursuit of new powers for big government is no surprise. But it’s astonishing that some Republicans in Congress signed-on to progressive antitrust bills, mainly to punish tech platforms that dropped Donald Trump after the Capitol riots last January.  

Robert Bork Jr. has warned Republicans about Klobuchar’s antitrust trap: “With the hope of curbing Big Tech’s heavy-handed ‘content moderation’ censorship of conservatives, many Republicans still are supporting this badly written bill, which promises chaos for markets, disruption for consumers, and socialism for American business.”     

And before voting against Klobuchar’s big antitrust bill in committee, Sen. Mike Lee warned his fellow Republicans, “What do we gain by giving deep-state bureaucrats control over Big Tech? They don’t want to break up Big Tech to protect us, but to control it and use it against us.”

Republicans must heed these warnings and recognize antitrust “reform” as a Trojan Horse packed with progressive priorities. And both parties should be wary of the other hidden agenda in these antitrust bills: rewards for companies who lobbied for the laws and sought carve-outs for themselves. 

Reps. Cicilline and Buck went so far as to accept Microsoft’s proposed language to ensure the company was not restricted by their antitrust bill. Incredibly, Buck has defended Microsoft’s acquisitions despite being of the same magnitude as acquisitions he strongly opposes.

In a recent Senate hearing, Amy Klobuchar had no response when asked if Microsoft would be covered by her antitrust bill. And Klobuchar’s anti-merger bill would bar the four largest tech companies from acquiring related businesses, while exempting Walmart and her home-state retailer Target – even if they later reached the size threshold in the law. If Klobuchar’s proposals are good competition law, they should apply to all large businesses, including those in her home state – not just big tech companies.

If the Senate hands big government new powers over “competition,” businesses will feel pressured to curry political favor with newly empowered ‘woke’ Washington bureaucrats. Businesses that succeed should be those that best serve consumers, not those with the best political allies in the White House. 

They say it’s not nice to look a gift horse in the mouth. But Republican lawmakers who understand what’s inside this Trojan Horse of antitrust legislation will find the reason and resolve to turn that horse away.

Steve DelBianco is President & CEO of NetChoice.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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