The U.S. Justice Department recently signaled it was exploring possible antitrust investigations into Google and Apple. Leading those investigations—assuming they actually happen—would be none other than Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, a former lobbyist that presidential hopeful and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren says should recuse himself due to his history with both companies.
In a letter to Delrahim, Warren notes Google paid Delrahim about $100,000 in 2007 to lobby federal antitrust officials for the company’s acquisition of DoubleClick Inc, an online ad company. That gig paid off, as it eventually culminated in a $3.1 billion merger. As for Delrahim’s ties to Apple, Warren notes he also lobbied on behalf of the Cupertino giant regarding patent reforms. The letter further emphasizes that Delrahim worked as a corporate lobbyist until 2016, and counted Anthem, Pfizer, Qualcomm, and Caesars among his clients.
“Your past work as a lobbyist for two of the largest and most scrutinized tech companies in the world creates the appearance of conflict of interest,” writes Warren. “As the head of the antitrust division at the DOJ, you should not be supervising investigations into former clients who paid you tens of thousands of dollars to lobby the federal government.”
Warren also sent a similarly worded letter to DOJ ethics officials, urging Delrahim’s recusal. She also asked for a response from both Delrahim and the DOJ by June 14.
While Big Tech has been under greater overall scrutiny in Washington, it’s fair to say Warren deserves some of the credit for pushing the issue into the national political conversation. Back in March, the Democratic presidential candidate proposed a plan to break up Amazon, Google, and Facebook at a rally in New York. On the issue of lobbying, Warren also introduced a bill in 2018 that would prohibit corporate lobbyists like Delrahim from taking government positions for six years.
Meanwhile, potential antitrust probes of the tech giants are gaining steam. While the DOJ has claimed jurisdiction over Apple and Google, the Federal Trade Commission called dibs on Facebook and Amazon. Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee announced it’s launching an all-out antitrust probe into the tech industry, and it’s holding its first hearing on the issue today.