August 11, 2022

An advocacy group has sent mobile billboards to Chuck Schumer’s DC and Brooklyn homes to convince the Senate majority leader to schedule a vote on bipartisan antitrust legislation that would curb the power of Big Tech platforms.

The truck-mounted ads arrived at the Democrat’s residences on Saturday promoting, which hosts a 26-minute clip of the HBO host John Oliver promoting the legislation.

“Everyone knows that Democrats are facing a tight election year, and I just don’t think that he can afford to fumble another major effort like this,” said Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, which paid for the ads.

“He needs to start acting like a majority leader, not a minority leader,” Greer told The Post. “Chuck Schumer is the only thing standing between these bills and passage.”

There are two major pending antitrust bills that would rein in anti-competitive practices by companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

One of the bills — the American Innovation and Choice Online Act — passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in January in a 16-6 vote. The bill was supported by all of the panel’s Democrats and five Republicans.

The ads include a link to a video of HBO host John Oliver promoting the bipartisan legislation.
Erald Kraja/Fight for the Future

A related bill, the Open App Markets Act, is expected to be considered at the same time.

Most bills in the Senate need 60 votes to proceed. However, advocates note that many Republicans are sponsors, suggesting they might be able to pass.

“He could drop them on the floor tomorrow and they would pass,” Greer said.

The John Oliver segment touts the bills while pointing out that Schumer’s daughters work at companies that would be impacted by the legislation. Jessica Schumer is a registered lobbyist at Amazon and Alison Schumer works at Facebook as a product marketing manager.

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“You have to start looking at ‘why might Chuck Schumer be so interested in protecting these Big Tech companies from commonsense bipartisan regulation?’” Greer said. “Our hope is that it’s just a timing thing and he’s going to get the message and stop stalling and put these bills on the floor, because everyone knows when these bills hit the floor, they’re going to pass.”

The billboards push for a vote on the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and Open App Markets Act.
The billboards push for a vote on the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and Open App Markets Act.
Erald Kraja/Fight for the Future

Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro told The Post, “Senator Schumer supports this bill and is working with Senator Klobuchar to get the votes.”

A Capitol Hill Democratic source said that the bill may not currently have the votes to pass either chamber of Congress, despite broad bipartisan support in committee.

Among the issues are tweaks demanded this month by four Democrats — Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin — to prevent the legislation from curbing content moderation practices. Many conservatives accuse Big Tech platforms of engaging in politically motivated censorship.

In May, a top aide to another Democrat, Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, reportedly raised objections to the legislation on a conference call.

But Greer said it was “totally bogus” to say that the votes aren’t there. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is the lead sponsor, said recently she has enough votes for passage.

“We believe that these bills are essential for fighting for a future where technology is a force for good and for empowerment and innovation and upliftment, rather than a force for tyranny and greed,” Greer told The Post.

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“We’re going to do everything in our power to get these bills passed. And as long as Sen. Schumer remains the speed bump preventing them from moving forward, we’re going to be continuing to focus on him and encouraging everyone else to focus on him and pressuring him to do the right thing and move these historic bills to a vote.”

The videos note that Schumer's daughters work at companies that would be impacted by the legislation.
The videos note that Schumer’s daughters work at companies that would be impacted by the legislation.
Erald Kraja/Fight for the Future

Antitrust legislation going after Big Tech has rare bipartisan support.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would ban platforms like Amazon and Google from unfairly squelching the products of rival companies, is co-sponsored by six Republicans: Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Steve Daines of Montana. A seventh Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, supported it in committee.

The associated Open App Markets Act, which would restrict Google and Apple from rigging their smartphone app stores against competitors, has some of the same sponsors, plus two additional Republicans, Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Other Republicans want strict regulations to ensure the free flow of information and commerce. For example, legislation from Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) would declare certain platforms to be “common carriers” that could not discriminate based on content. That approach dusts off a policy historically applied to railroads.