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Gigi Sohn

Gigi Sohn testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing examining her nomination to be appointed commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission on February 9, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)

Dems Accused of Caving to 'Rabid' Telecom Industry Smear Campaign Against FCC Nominee

"Where's the leadership?" Fight for the Future asked Democrats. "Do what you said you would do."

Jessica Corbett

Supporters of Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn and other critics of the telecommunications industry's efforts to thwart her U.S. Senate confirmation this week called out not only those behind the smear campaign but also Democratic leaders.

"Dem leadership is nowhere to be found defending their nominee."

The digital rights group Fight for the Future tweeted late Thursday that President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules, of which Sohn was a chief architect.

"But instead they're sitting on the sidelines while Big Telecom mounts a massive dark money-funded smear campaign against their nominee to the FCC, Gigi Sohn," Fight for the Future added. "Where's the leadership? Do what you said you would do."

Fight for the Future director Evan Greer said Thursday that "it is absolutely absurd that millions of people from across the political spectrum fought for and won net neutrality at the FCC."

Ajit Pai, who chaired the FCC during the Trump administration, "repealed it, Dems promised to restore it, and they've so far failed to do so by caving to industry pressure and slow-walking" Sohn's nomination, Greer added.

"The only reason for this is corruption. Plain and simple," she charged, adding that it is a "good time to remember that Comcast, AT&T, Verizon etc. are huge donors to Democratic leadership and candidates. They've got their hands all up in there."

The campaigner also said that while the telecom sector and others—including the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)—attack Sohn, "Dem leadership is nowhere to be found defending their nominee."

Greer pointed to a piece that Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns for Color of Change, wrote for The Root last year, declaring that the FOP is "one of the largest and most powerful hate groups in the country" and "acts as the guardian, enforcer, and perpetuator" of "racist police culture."

The FOP has openly opposed Sohn, citing her "forceful advocacy of end-to-end encryption and 'user-only-access'" and claiming that her employment history, public policy stances, and social media activity "indicated serious animus towards law enforcement officers and the rule of law."

The FOP on Wednesday released polling it commissioned from Morning Consult, which asked U.S. registered voters various questions, including some about Sohn.

"In the poll, 65% of voters had no opinion on this nominee. But after seeing information and social media posts about her extreme positions on policing issues, 6 in 10 said they would be less likely to support the nomination," said FOP national president Patrick Yoes. "For those who say Ms. Sohn's nomination will impact their vote in the Senate's midterm elections, 60% say they are more likely to vote for a Republican candidate—which is very significant in states like Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, and Washington."

Critics framed the FOP polling as part of the ongoing efforts to tank Sohn's nomination.

"The smear campaign against [Sohn] has been beyond ridiculous," said Techdirt founder Mike Masnick. "Everyone who knows anything about her knows that it's pure nonsense, that she's beyond qualified, and that she will do an amazing job."

"The smear merchants are doing it *because* they know she'll do a good job," added Masnick, who was responding on Twitter to similar comments from technology writer Karl Bode.

Bode had tweeted of the FOP polling that "this is part of a manufactured smear campaign being run by AT&T and Comcast against a highly qualified and extremely popular FCC nominee literally everyone in the telecom/media space knows would be great on telecom monopolization, broadband affordability, and media consolidation."

Writing for Techdirt on Friday, Bode blasted the FOP's "not-at-all-scientific poll" as well as the "grotesque campaign" by telecom giants to "spread harmful gibberish in a bid to either flip or provide flimsy justification" for right-wing Democratic senators opposing her nomination.

He also wrote:

The Biden team isn't faultless here either. It took the Biden administration nine months to even nominate Sohn, giving the telecom industry… ample time to galvanize opposition. Team Biden also hasn't done anything to defend Sohn publicly, or apply any meaningful pressure on the Senate confirmation voting process. Nor have Sohn's future FCC colleagues voiced any public support, despite the shamelessness of the attacks.

Which, in turn, is fairly reflective of how the federal government doesn't really take stuff like telecom monopolization and telecom consolidation seriously, especially in an era where "Big Tech" has sucked all the oxygen out of the D.C. policy room. And again, this is all occurring in an era when D.C. pretends to be interested in "bipartisan antitrust reform," revealing the hollowness of the gambit.

In a series of tweets Friday, Bode warned that "it is going to be an EXTREMELY long and painful decade if Democratic strategists don't start pulling their heads out of their asses and start displaying something vaguely resembling urgency, passion, and creativity."

"The phony appeal of authoritarianism can only be defeated if the [Democratic National Committee] shakes off corruption and truly represents the public interest," Bode added. "You don't accomplish this by letting a hugely popular media and telecom reformer drown under unopposed GOP/telecom propaganda attacks."


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