The advocacy group also ran digital ads in March urging members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to “oppose any effort to use antitrust laws to break up America’s innovative tech companies.” The targets of those ads included freshman Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), both of whom the Koch organization supported in last year’s election.
“It’s been troubling to see a sort of coming together of populist mobs on the left and the right,” said Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy portfolio for the Koch umbrella network Stand Together. “Our views haven’t changed based on the politics of the moment.”
But the Koch network does not see itself as Silicon Valley’s cheerleader either, he added.
“Our role is not to defend these companies,” Blumenthal said. “Our role is to monitor and critique, in this case, what we see as a potentially illegitimate use of government power. If Google or Facebook or any other company has violated the antitrust laws then they should be investigated.”
Still, the Koch network’s hesitancy to join calls for a tech crackdown is putting it increasingly out of step with a chunk of today’s GOP. Republicans have long been associated with more cautious antitrust enforcement, suspicious of the notion that the government should effectively choose winners and losers in the marketplace. But those views have become unmoored as animus toward the tech industry grows, observers say.
“You can no longer say Republicans are the party of limited government intervention when it comes to antitrust,” said one veteran Washington antitrust attorney, who requested anonymity to speak freely.
“It will portend a more active Republican antitrust regime than we’ve seen in the past,” the lawyer continued. “If we have a bipartisan consensus that we really ought to look at these companies and police them closely on competition issues, I think that makes a difference. It’s a very different world than five years ago or 10 years ago.”
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