A new report reveals that two-thirds of Federal Trade Commission officials, tasked with everything from bleach labeling to enforcing net neutrality, either worked for corporations before entering the agency or soon after the end of their term over the past two decades.
The US government frequently fails to hold giant corporations accountable for bad behavior, in no small part thanks to the “revolving door” between posh positions as corporate lobbyists or lawyers, and key government jobs that present conflicts of interest.
For example, former FTC chief Jon Leibowitz now helps telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast lobby against meaningful consumer protections. Former FTC boss Edith Ramirez now helps Google and Youtube battle allegations of child-centric privacy violations. The phenomenon persists outside the FTC; former Federal Communications Commission boss Michael Powell now heads the cable industry’s top lobbying organization.
A new report by Public Citizen examines the depth of the problem at the FTC. Over the last two decades, the study found that more than 75 percent of FTC officials (31 out of 41) had either served corporate interests before coming to the agency, or quickly moved on to doing so at the end of their term.
Moreover, the study found that more than 60 percent of these officials had direct financial conflicts of interests with their roles overseeing either their previous or subsequent employers. More than half (13) of the FTC chairs and commissioners the study examined had specific tech sector conflicts of interest, and numerous others had represented companies facing FTC investigations, including Amway, Herbalife, or Proctor and Gamble.
Once officials leave government and enter the private sector, regulators can often be found penning editorials or giving speeches supporting the positions of their corporate clients without disclosing their newfound financial conflicts of interest. They’re often useful as media props to support policies (like killing net neutrality) that are decidedly not in the public interest.
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