Mar 15, 2021 - Technology

7 people who'll likely drive the Biden administration's tech policy

Photo illustration of Joe Biden surrounded by cursors.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

While the Biden administration has been slow to appoint the key decision makers at agencies overseeing technology issues, a handful of people are on the inside track to lead them.

Between the lines: By and large, these likely appointees do not have direct ties to Big Tech companies and have advocated for tougher measures against the industry. Many also previously served in the Obama administration and fall in the progressive camp. 

What to watch: Here are the names you'll hear a lot as Biden builds out his tech policy apparatus at the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission.

Karl Racine: Sources tell Axios that Racine, the D.C. attorney general, is actively being vetted by the White House for an administration gig, potentially at the FTC.

  • Racine has joined the multi-state antitrust lawsuits against Facebook and Google, and separately sued Facebook in 2018 over the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.
  • A spokesperson for his office told Axios he is flattered to be mentioned among individuals eyed for administration posts.

Alvaro Bedoya: Bedoya is being considered for a Democratic FTC commissioner slot. He's the founding director of the Center for Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law School and an expert on data collection and surveillance.

  • He previously was chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law, working on privacy and security legislation.

Jon Sallet: Sallet is a candidate to lead the antitrust division at the DOJ, where he previously was the deputy assistant attorney general for litigation. He also served as the general counsel of the FCC during the Obama administration.

  • Sallet advised the Colorado Attorney General in the multi-state antitrust lawsuit against Google.

Jonathan Kanter: A longtime antitrust lawyer known for promoting aggressive enforcement, Kanter is in the running to head up the DOJ's antitrust division. He previously worked for the FTC's Bureau of Competition, challenging mergers and often testifying on the Hill or offering expertise to the FTC.

  • Kanter is well-liked and known among the crowd in D.C. who hope to shift the tech competition conversation away from the prevailing legal consensus that antitrust cases must show financial harm to consumers.

Gigi Sohn: Sohn previously advised former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and has strong ties to public interest groups as a co-founder and former CEO of Public Knowledge.

  • She's now a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Institute Senior Fellow & Public Advocate.

Edward "Smitty" Smith: The former adviser to Wheeler served in the Biden transition as part of the FCC review team.

  • Smith has been in private practice at DLA Piper (the former law firm of Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff). He also served as senior director for the National Urban League's digital equity proposal, known as the Latimer plan.

Anna Gomez: The Wiley Rein attorney and former Commerce Department official was part of the Biden transition's Commerce review team.

  • Gomez is seen as a contender for a commissioner position with the FCC.

The big picture: Biden's tech direction began coming into focus last week with two well known critics of Big Tech making headlines:

  • Law professor Tim Wu joined the White House as an economic adviser.
  • Antitrust expert Lina Khan is being vetted for a possible appointment as an FTC commissioner.

Of note: Jessica Rosenworcel and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, the acting heads of the FCC and FTC respectively, are also both seen as strong contenders for permanent heads of their agencies.

Go deeper: The people trying to get in Biden's head on holding tech accountable

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