Selection of AAG for Antitrust To Be Critical Decision

Feb 08 2001
Commentaries

Supporting a Strong Antitrust Division

The President has announced the nomination of Charles James to be Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust. This nomination will be subject to the US Senate's confirmation process, with hearings before the Judiciary Committee anticipated soon. This process presents an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of antitrust law as a critical legal foundation for our economy. Those who care about the future of antitrust must take time to make their views known to the Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who will be in position to ask tough questions and seek positive commitments to enforce the law with vigor and courage.

The American Antitrust Institute will be sending a letter to the Members and their staffs and offering a list of questions that it deems important to have the nominee answer. But individual letters from antitrust experts, consumers, businesses and others will be very important, most especially when they come from constituents. To this end, we are providing direct e-mail linkages to the Members and their key staff people. Your personal contact with Senators, not limited to Judiciary Members, would be even more helpful.

WHAT'S AT STAKE?

We learned during the Reagan Administration that the role of antitrust can be minimized almost overnight if the leadership of the Justice Department takes a narrow view of its function. Budgets were cut drastically. Selection of cases was reduced to a focus on horizontal price-fixing and a few large mergers. In entire areas, no cases were brought. The Department took positions aimed at narrowing the role of antitrust. Judges were appointed who were committed to this minimalist view of antitrust.

The first Bush Administration began to restore the traditional standing of antitrust, and the Clinton Administration brought antitrust back to a level of moderate enforcement. Resources are still below the 1980 level, but have been moving in the right direction. We cannot afford to slip back into another period of laissez faire disregard for antitrust.

What is at stake now?

  • Federal antitrust resources: we need an AAG who will be a forceful advocate for increased staffing and better pay for staff.
  • Landmark cases: we need an AAG who is committed to pursuing the Microsoft case all the way to the Supreme Court, who will stop the consolidation of the airline and food industries and assure that they perform competitively.
  • Advocacy: we need an AAG who will advocate realistic competitive directions for electricity deregulation.
  • Mergers: we need an AAG who will utilize the full authority of the Clayton Act to attack anticompetitive mergers.
  • The New Economy: we need an AAG who will defend the institutions of antitrust against efforts to reduce or eliminate the role of antitrust in the New Economy.
  • The Global Economy: we need an AAG who will recognize the expanded role of antitrust on the world scene, who will continue to prosecute international cartels, and who will work toward greater cooperation among the world's competition authorities.

A SAMPLE LETTER

The Hon. (full name)Committee on the JudiciaryUnited States SenateWashington, DC 20510

Dear Senator (last name):

I write as one who has a strong interest in the enforcement of our antitrust laws, which are a fundamental tool of our capitalist market economy. As you consider the nomination of the next Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, I hope you will make it clear through your statements and questioning that you share this interest. Consumers need aggressive antitrust enforcement and you are the consumers' last defense against the possibility of a regime that will replace vigorous antitrust with laissez faire.

Please look at the nominee in terms of his or her ability to be a strong and positive leader. The nominee should have a solid background in the field of antitrust, familiar with both the law and economics that are needed to understand the structure, behavior, and performance of industries. The nominee should be committed to an empirical perspective, not overly influenced by abstract theories or ideological schools. The nominee should be able to explain in clear terms that the American people can understand exactly why antitrust is important and why it must be aggressively enforced.

It is particularly important that the nominee be a person who will not walk away from the important investigations and cases that are currently under way. For example, to settle the Microsoft case, after Microsoft has contributed so much in campaign money, would not only be harmful to the high technology community and to consumers, but would set a terrible tone for antitrust in general. To avoid the implication that politics runs antitrust, this case must be pursued all the way to the Supreme Court.

I am also concerned about merger enforcement. Currently, only a few mergers out of thousands get challenged each year. Given the transforming power of the present merger wave, we need someone committed to using the full authority of the Clayton Act to examine and if necessary challenge a larger number of mergers. In particular, the nominee must be a person of vision who is willing to look at the forest and not merely the trees. For example, airline mergers that will in all probability trigger additional consolidation of air transport must be stopped before we are left with a small handful of large carriers.

Please use this advise and consent opportunity to assure that the next Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust understands that the Senate expects and demands aggressive law enforcement.

Sincerely,

WE RECOMMEND YOU USE YOUR OWN WORDS AND FOCUS ON THE ISSUES THAT MATTER MOST TO YOU. BELOW ARE THE NAMES OF MEMBERS OF THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AND THEIR KEY STAFF, WITH LINKS TO THEIR E-MAIL SITES TO FACILITATE YOUR COMMUNICATION.

Senator
Chief of Staff Orrin Hatch
Patricia Kinght Strom Thurmond
Duke Short Chuck Grassley
Ken Cunningham Arlen Specter
David Urban Jon Kyl
Laurie Fenton Mike DeWine
Laurel Pressler Jeff Sessions
Armand Dekeyser Sam Brownback
Heather Wingate Mitch McConnell
G. Hunter Bates Patrick Leahy
Luke Albee Edward Kennedy
Gerard Kavanaugh Joseph Biden
Alan Hoffman Herb Kohl
Paul Bock Dianne Feinstein
Mark Kadesh Russell Feingold
Mary Murphy Charles Schumer
John Wyma Richard Durbin
Ed Greelegs Maria Cantwell
Michael Meehan

Committee Staffer
PositionMakan Delrahim
Sen. Judiciary (Maj. Staff Director)Sharon Prost
Sen. Judiciary (Maj. Counsel)Bruce Cohen
Sen. Judiciary (Min. Counsel/ Staff Director)Peter Levitas
Antitrust Sub-Comm (Maj. Counsel/ Staff Director)Victoria Bassetti
Antitrust Sub-Comm (Min. Counsel/ Staff Director)Anthony Lowe
Antitrust Sub-Comm (Maj. Staff)Steve Taylor
Antitrust Sub-Comm (Maj. Staff)Abigail Hing
Antitrust Sub-Comm (Maj. Staff)Seth Bloom
Antitrust Sub-Comm (Min. Staff)Brian Lee
Antitrust Sub-Comm (Min. Staff)Jonathan Schwantes
Antitrust Sub-Comm (Min. Staff)Elizabeth Reder
Antitrust Sub-Comm (Min. Staff)