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Antitrust insiders blame Chuck Schumer for Amazon-MGM’s FTC approval

The Amazon-MGM merger gained approval from the Federal Trade Commission without fanfare or a fight last week — and antitrust advocates are blaming New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. The FTC is helmed by one of the most aggressive antitrust critics, Lina Khan, but it’s deadlocked between two laissez-faire Republicans who typically approve mergers and two pro-regulation Democrats who typically opposed big mergers. To strike down a deal, Khan and her allies need a 3-2 majority, which they didn’t have because the likely next FTC commissioner — Alvaro Bedoya — has yet to be put to a vote on the Senate floor by Schumer. And sources say Schumer, who could’ve put Bedoya up for a vote in December or earlier this month is dragging his feet in part because he has a conflict of interest when it comes to Amazon: The New York Post was first to report Schumer’s daughter Jessica Schumer is a registered lobbyist at Amazon, according to New York state records. She didn’t comment on The Post report. “There was a widespread assumption in the community paying attention to this that if Bedoya got confirmed before the deadline, the Amazon-MGM merger would have been blocked,” one antitrust advocate told The Post. “Whether the FTC was going to block the Amazon-MGM merger always seemed to come down to the timing of when Bedoya was confirmed.” “Schumer had the call over whether Bedoya was confirmed before the deadline,” the source adds. To be sure, Schumer has been balancing other priorities, including passing a $1.5 trillion budget package that included $10 billion in aid to Ukraine. People close to Schumer note he’s pushed forward progressives like Khan and the tough-on-tech head of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division Jonathan Kanter. A Schumer spokesman, Angelo Roefaro, told The Post, that his boss wasn’t holding up the FTC appointment. “Senator Schumer’s track record of placing pro-consumer watchdogs in key regulatory positions, along with his support for stringent anti-trust review, puts him at the very forefront of protecting consumers and regulating big business,” he said. In a statement to The Post, a spokeswoman for Elizabeth Warren commended Schumer’s actions as Majority Leader. “Leader Schumer’s a steadfast supporter of Alvaro Bedoya, and I know he’s committed to swiftly confirming Bedoya as the next FTC Commissioner,” the spokeswoman said. While some in Washington are worried the Amazon-MGM deal will limit competition, others believe the deal — which is less than $10 billion — isn’t cause for alarm. Still, the delay on Bedoya’s nomination comes as critics say Schumer is delaying antitrust legislation. Schumer has previously said he’s “sympathetic” to big tech. His other daughter Alison Schumer works at Facebook as a product marketing manager. Schumer is responsible for shepherding antitrust bills that aim to crack down on Big Tech. Advocates of the legislation fear that the tech companies’ ties to Sen. Schumer’s children could create a conflict of interest, people close to the matter said. And they say Schumer’s familial connection to the tech companies is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the cozy relationships some members of Congress have with the firms. “When you put together the amount of money Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi made off tech with the fact that leader Schumer’s two kids work for giant tech companies, Democrats are going to have a very hard time explaining if major legislation doesn’t move forward this session,” one progressive operative told The Post. “It’s not just a messaging problem — it also raises substantive concerns,” this person said. If you were a judge with a kid who worked for Facebook you’d recuse yourself from the case.” Jeff Hauser, founder and director of the Revolving Door Project, which looks at money in politics, said Schumer’s ties to the tech companies are cause for concern. “When they are on opposite sides of the divide it can make the public servant member of the family too sympathetic to the company that employs their child or family member,” he contended.

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