- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2022

A bipartisan antitrust bill to crack down on large tech companies is facing new attacks as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, revises the proposal in hopes of winning broader support needed to ensure a vote on the Senate floor.

Ms. Klobuchar co-sponsored the American Innovation and Choice Online Act with Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, to stop dominant platforms from favoring their products and discriminating against alternatives on the platforms’ services. Apple and Google have vigorously argued against such antitrust legislation.

After the unveiling of a new draft bill from Ms. Klobuchar last week and reports that Democratic leadership is taking a fresh look at the proposal, the bill’s critics have their knives out.

The liberal Chamber of Progress that counts Amazon, Apple, Google, and Meta as partners has ripped the legislation as a carve-out for banks, credit card companies, and the telecom industry while failing to address privacy concerns.

Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich said Amazon, Apple, and Google products could suffer from the proposal, and the companies’ customers would be alarmed if they knew its impact.  

“You don’t see voters marching on Washington demanding that Congress make changes to their Google Search results and Amazon Prime,” Mr. Kovacevich said. “I think that particularly swing-state Democrats understand that.”

Mr. Kovacevich declined to name specific swing-state Democrats. His group has run digital ads opposing the legislation and he declined to say how much was spent on the ads.  

Tech-aligned advocacy groups are in lockstep against the bill. For example, the Google-aligned Taxpayer Protection Alliance and Connected Commerce Council have both slammed the revised bill as not addressing cybersecurity concerns and serving as political window-dressing, respectively.

The conservative Americans for Tax Reform federal affairs manager Tom Hebert also panned the bill.

“Ultimately, after months of waiting, the updated version of S. 2992 makes very little substantive changes that would increase the likelihood of reaching 60 Senate votes,” Mr. Hebert wrote last week. “Republicans should feel no need to help Klobuchar’s ‘pet project’ reach the finish line before the midterm election.”

Other conservatives disagree. Internet Accountability Project founder Mike Davis said he believes the legislation has 60 votes in the Senate, and he said it has a good chance of becoming law in a few months. Mr. Davis formerly worked as a chief counsel to Mr. Grassley.

“The trillion-dollar big tech monopolists, especially Apple and Google, are getting desperate in their attacks,” Mr. Davis said. “They’re hysterically claiming that this legislation will break the internet.”

Mr. Davis said attacks by tech-aligned groups on the legislation are “typical gaslighting and fearmongering from big tech” because they could not win the argument on the substance.

Mr. Grassley supports the revised bill.

The Big Tech companies and the organizations that they fund are running out of arguments. Their new approach is throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement. “Our updated text improves cybersecurity, increases American [users’] privacy and security, and makes clear that the legislation is intended to cover only dominant online gatekeeper platforms.” 

Ms. Klobuchar‘s office touted the support of Small Business Rising, the National Association of Wholesale Distributors, and Main Street Alliance.

“Who do you trust?” Klobuchar spokesperson Jane Meyer said in a statement. “The largest online retailer in America with a demonstrated record of stiffing small businesses and lying about this bill’s impact, or small businesses themselves?”

Ms. Klobuchar‘s team said her bill sides with consumers.

“We’ll take the side of small business and consumers — not the side of the big tech monopolists,” Ms. Meyer said.

No floor vote is yet scheduled on the legislation.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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