The Biden administration’s FCC nominee may have deep conflicts of interest with the companies she may oversee, according to a memo obtained by The Daily Wire.
According to the memo, Sohn’s public records show that she is a consultant for the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, a think tank dedicated to expanding broadband access. But that think tank is funded by many of the telecom giants she is nominated to oversee. And Sohn has publicly criticized that exact behavior before.
According to Sohn’s Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report with the Office of Government Ethics from January 2022, Sohn earned some $137,002 in “consulting fees” from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, which accounts for nearly half of her reported salary. In the filing, Sohn described her work as “[p]ublic advocacy, coalition building and strategic guidance that broadens public awareness about the importance of universal, affordable and open communications networks.”
According to the Benton Institute’s website, Sohn has been a Senior Fellow and Public Advocate with the organization since 2018, and has published nearly 20 articles for their blog, and another she co-authored for the website TechDirt.
However, according to a donor list also on the Benton Institute’s website, the organization is sponsored by several of the largest telecommunications giants in the country, companies that Sohn will oversee if appointed to the FCC. Among the organization’s “Platinum Sponsors” are Google Fiber, the internet giant’s fiber-to-the-premises broadband subsidiary; Verizon; and T-Mobile. One of the group’s “Gold Sponsors” is the National Lifeline Association, a non-profit which supports the federal Lifeline program. “Silver Sponsors” include AT&T, Dish Network, and Twitter.
And Sohn has criticized these exact groups in the past. “Yes, it’s better that @FCC is again run by telecom, cable & broadcast industries & their bought & paid 4 think-tanks,” Sohn tweeted sarcastically in 2017, replying to a critic. “Now *that’s* democracy!”
Yes, it’s better that @FCC is again run by telecom, cable & broadcast industries & their bought & paid 4 think-tanks. Now *that’s* democracy! https://t.co/7rlzHTeqDD
— Gigi Sohn (@gigibsohn) November 29, 2017
Sohn advertises her position at the Benton Institute in her Twitter bio.
On January 3, President Joe Biden re-nominated Sohn for a vacant seat on the FCC formerly held by Ajit Pai. He previously nominated her in 2021, but her nomination stalled because of concerns about overtly partisan statements and advocating for censorship of conservative news networks like Fox News and Sinclair Media.
“My principal concern with Ms. Sohn is that she has expressed a significant willingness to use government power against political enemies, and to use government power as a tool of censorship,” Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz said in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last March. “And I think the FCC is a particularly dangerous place for a partisan who is willing to try to muzzle those with whom she disagrees.” Cruz also raised ethical concerns over a secret legal settlement made by company she served on the board of, just one day after Biden announced her nomination.
The Commerce Committee deadlocked on her nomination, sending her confirmation to the full Senate with extra procedural hurdles. The nomination was never brought to the floor, and the Senate returned the nomination to Biden on January 3, before the 117th Congress concluded and the 118th Congress opened.
Sohn is currently facing criticism over her position on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which opposed a pair of bipartisan laws passed in 2018 aimed at stopping online sex trafficking, as well as sharing a tweet attacking former President Trump.