Make Ashcroft Focus on Antitrust Enforcement, AAI Urges Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee

Jan 13 2001
Testimony and Interventions

A comparable letter was e-mailed on January 12, 2001 to all the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and their lead staff person--

Dear Chairman Hatch:

The American Antitrust Institute is a public interest education, research, and advocacy organization, with a homepage at www.antitrustinstitute.org. Our Advisory Board includes many of the most eminent people in the antitrust field.

Next week, you and the other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting to review former Senator John Ashcroft for Attorney General. I hope that you seriously consider his attitude towards antitrust as an important factor in your decision to confirm or deny his nomination.

Our economy is driven by competition and is seriously threatened by monopolistic behavior. Our current system is fair and has usually had bipartisan support. I am thankful that our antitrust laws are neither too strict nor too lax. With respect to that fact, I want to respectfully remind you that - regardless of your personal feelings on the case - a Reagan-appointed federal judge ruled last year that Microsoft Corp. egregiously violated our nation's antitrust laws.

Because of that, I am distressed by some of the rhetoric of the incoming administration; it seems to take a dangerously relaxed stance on antitrust issues. The case against Microsoft, which tackles an existing monopoly, should be a litmus test against which we may discern Mr. Ashcroft's stance on antitrust. It is not enough for him to say that he will enforce the laws. If he is not committed to carrying this case through - after the government has already secured a guilty verdict in the face of overwhelming evidence - then it is likely that he would not closely examine the potential ill effects of any antitrust violation or future mega-merger.

If Mr. Ashcroft and his staff abandon the case or negotiate it away after the first round in the appeal process, not only would it have disastrous effects on the software and Internet industries, but on all other industries in which a potential monopoly exists. Businesses would quickly come to understand that they need not fear reprisal for monopolistic behavior. Competition will suffer; innovation will suffer; prices will suffer; the economy will suffer; consumers will suffer.

Or, Mr. Ashcroft can put aside partisan differences and pursue a just case begun by a previous administration. For the sake of the economy and for the sake of consumers, please use this opportunity to determine where his intentions lay and confirm him only if he will support antitrust laws and earnestly pursue the case against Microsoft.

Sincerely,

Albert A. FoerPresidentAmerican Antitrust Institute