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The Democrats Rediscover Antitrust

 |  August 28, 2017

Posted by Social Science Research Network

The Democrats rediscover antitrust

By Allen P. Grunes

For the past twenty years, unlike almost everything else in Washington, D.C., antitrust has tended to be bipartisan. It has mattered to some extent who is in the White House and which party controls the Senate and the House, but the differences in overall enforcement philosophies have tended to be relatively modest. As former FTC Commissioner Thomas Leary put it few years ago, “There really is no such thing as a ‘Republican’ or a ‘Democratic’ antitrust agenda today. People may have different views on the facts of individual cases for a variety of reasons, but there is a broad mainstream consensus on the basic approach to antitrust issues.”

A potent symbol of the bipartisan flavor of antitrust can be seen in the fact that Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, have written numerous joint letters to the federal antitrust agencies expressing their shared views.

This spirit of bipartisanship looks like it may be about to change.

President Trump was elected, at least in part, on a campaign that appealed to a popular belief that the game is rigged. In his campaign, candidate Trump spoke about how we have too much consolidation of business in the U.S., and he mentioned media concentration in particular. His message on antitrust was a populist message. Indeed, his comments about the media could have come straight out of the late Ben Bagdikian’s book, The New Media Monopoly.

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