Gigi Sohn, the regulating radical whom President Biden has been trying for much of his administration to get on the Federal Communications Commission, recently got an unusual third bite at the apple.
It didn’t help. Testifying for a third time in front of the Senate Commerce Committee, she said nothing that should assuage the concerns of senators who thought her lack of candor and previously exhibited obfuscation were disqualifying.
Still, the prospects of her eventual confirmation have improved because the Democrats now run the Senate. That means they can get just about any nominee, no matter how unqualified, out of committee and onto the floor where the White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can use carrots and sticks to get the votes needed for confirmation.
Ms. Sohn, like many others whom Mr. Biden has placed in positions of regulatory authority, thinks American business is underregulated. From an economic standpoint, that’s nonsense. At a minimum, overregulation costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
As a political matter, however, they’re right. The ivory-tower activists who think they should run the economy need the kind of leverage the traditional light-touch approach to regulation doesn’t allow.
Ms. Sohn has indicated that’s her preference too, which allows people to predict she’ll try to intervene in matters where the FCC lacks authority, like making determinations about the truthfulness of news reporting shared over the public airwaves.
This is no small matter. Ms. Sohn has long been allied with that part of the progressive movement seeking to have the government censor speech, sanction purveyors of what they call misinformation, and silence critics they find especially troublesome because people, especially those who vote, believe them.
They’re not after the people who said the Hunter Biden laptop story had all the hallmarks of a disinformation campaign waged by a foreign intelligence service or that former President Donald Trump was secretly in collusion with the Russian government. They’re after the people who said President Barack Obama wasn’t telling the truth when he said that under the Affordable Care Act you could keep your health care if you liked it and that Mr. Biden’s energy policies are responsible for the inflationary energy price spike.
They expect Ms. Sohn will do their bidding once confirmed, encouraged no doubt by the negative things she’s said about some conservative news outlets. We’ll allow that might not be the case, but she has said things that are reason enough to question whether she’ll approach her responsibilities with an open mind.
That’s the most important thing. People have the right to expect that those appointed to important regulatory posts will be driven by data, not their partisan leanings. They have enormous, protected power. The president who appoints them subject to confirmation by Congress cannot fire them as he can a Cabinet official, a military officer, or others as head of the executive branch.
That’s supposed to ensure independent regulators remain independent, free from political constraints. Instead, it frees them to be as radical as they like and push their agencies into unexplored parts of the regulatory galaxy seeking new places to plant their flags.
If Ms. Sohn were the only appointee who threatened to cross this invisible line, she might be due the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately for her, many Biden regulators at agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission are pushing to turn the regulatory bodies on which they serve into mechanisms through which central economic planning can be imposed and enforced. That’s bad for many reasons, but mostly because central planning doesn’t work.
The proper vote on Ms. Sohn was no before she was renominated. It remains so.