The House Judiciary Committee’s Chairman Jim Jordan Wednesday reiterated a request for the Federal Trade Commission to provide documents relating to the agency’s approach to reviewing company mergers and threatened to use subpoena powers if the FTC doesn’t comply.
In a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan, a Biden-nominated Democrat who has been a prime target of the GOP due to her aggressive enforcement agenda, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH., said the FTC had failed to comply with a March 9 request for information and set a second deadline of April 10 for the agency to respond.
Complying with records preservation requests remains a top concern for agency officials as the House Republican majority increases scrutiny of federal government operations. In January, the National Archives widened its digital records retention guidance for agencies to include other forms of electronic messaging such as text messages.
“Historically, the FTC is among the most responsive agencies when it comes to answering congress’s questions and providing information, so it certainly raises serious concerns when they are being this obstructionist,” Russell Dye, spokesperson for Chairman Jordan told FedScoop.
The spokesperson also confirmed that subpoenas are currently being seriously considered to obtain the documents that Jordan and House Republicans have requested in the letter to the FTC that FedScoop exclusively obtained.
Six House Republicans led by Rep. Nathaniel Moran, R-TX., wrote to Chair Khan on March 9 saying that the “Biden FTC’s pursuit of a partisan agenda that expands agency power and discards decades of experience to the detriment of the American people. We urge the FTC to revert to a principled approach that puts consumers above partisan agendas and write to request information and documents relevant to Congress’s oversight.”
Moran is in support of Jordan’s more aggressive steps to obtain documents from the FTC and says the FTC needs to be held accountable for its approach to mergers.
“The FTC’s current approach to mergers and acquisitions has stifled innovation and left consumers at a disadvantage,” Moran told FedScoop in a statement. “I appreciate my colleagues, Chairman Jim Jordan and Congressman Thomas Massie, for building on our previous efforts to demand transparency for the American people and continuing to press Chairwoman Lina Khan on this important issue.”
Responding to the missive, Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, who is the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee on Antitrust, said the letter was another example of GOP lawmakers seeking to hamper pro-competition work by the FTC.
He added: “I urge my colleagues to consider proactive legislative proposals that would level the playing field for smaller competitors, like the American Innovation and Choice Online Act we voted out of Committee last Congress.”
In September, FedScoop exclusively reported that Jordan and House Republicans on the Judiciary committee would probe allegations that the FTC may have relied on “unpaid and unaccountable” consultants to perform core functions, and requested the agency stop the destruction or alteration of any electronic information relevant to the inquiry.
The inquiry marks one of the first instances in which lawmakers have called on a federal agency and its leadership to preserve all digital records. Last July, a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol said the Secret Service may have violated the Federal Records Act by failing to properly preserve text messages.
The Republican lawmaker’s questions focused on whether the FTC may have improperly used consultants and experts to drive a Democratic agenda.
The letter from House Republicans followed a report from the FTC’s Inspector General in September 2022 that highlighted the use of consultants and unpaid experts by the regulator.
The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.