Amazon is pushing back against Lina Khan, the newly confirmed chair of the Federal Trade Commission, by filing a recusal motion against the longtime antitrust advocate, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The petition asks Khan to restrict herself from any proceedings involving Amazon on the basis of her past statements about the company, including claims that Amazon is a monopoly and should be broken up.
“[Federal ethics rules] require recusal when a new Commissioner previously has expressed views that go beyond general policy commentary and has made statements about specific factual and legal issues relating to a particular company,” the petition reads. “Chair Khan has made numerous and highly detailed public pronouncements regarding Amazon, including on market definition, specific conduct and theories of harm, and the purpose, effects, and legality of such conduct. Indeed, she has on numerous occasions argued that Amazon is guilty of antitrust violations and should be broken up.”
It’s unlikely that Amazon’s petition will succeed. Recusal petitions against FTC commissioners are rarely successful, and it’s common for an FTC chair to have previously worked for nonprofit groups or as a congressional staffer. The petition highlights an unusually high number of public editorials by Khan, but even those are well within the limits of political commentary.
More importantly, Khan was confirmed with bipartisan support specifically because of her influential anti-Amazon views, which are increasingly widely held in Congress. The Senate wants the FTC to push back on Amazon, and Khan’s previous statements about the company are a big part of why she got the job.
That doesn’t mean Khan will be able to do everything she wants: the courts are a huge check on the FTC’s power, as the commission just found out in its case against Facebook. But with backing from both the White House and Congress, she’s earned the chance to try. The real message of today’s petition is that Amazon will be fighting that agenda every chance they get.