FCC nominee Gigi Sohn withdraws, citing ‘dark money’ groups
Gigi Sohn withdrew her nomination to the Federal Communications Commission, dashing for now President Biden’s push to restore internet-service regulations gutted by Republicans.
Sohn, 61, said in a statement Tuesday that she had been assailed by “cable and media industry lobbyists, their bought-and-paid-for surrogates, and dark money political groups” with “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks.”
Sohn’s withdrawal leaves the telecommunications regulator in a 2-to-2 partisan deadlock until the Biden administration can produce another nominee to shepherd through the Senate, a task that could take months. In the meantime, efforts remain stymied to restore net neutrality rules, that backers say are needed to ensure fair access to the web.
“We appreciate Gigi Sohn’s candidacy for this important role,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing. “She would have brought tremendous talent, intellect and experience, which is why the President nominated her in the first place.”
Sohn fell victim to Democrats’ narrow edge in the Senate, and to steadfast Republican opposition that took note of her sometimes inflammatory tweets, her time with an online service that relayed TV signals and was accused of violating broadcasters’ copyrights, and her criticism of Fox News as partisan.
After failing to kill the FCC nomination of Gigi Sohn because she’d be too tough on business, opponents have turned to smearing her with homophobic lies.
Sohn’s approval would have given Democrats their first FCC majority of the Biden presidency. She could have provided votes for greater data privacy rules, and ones against broadcast consolidation. During her service as an FCC adviser under an earlier Democratic administration, Sohn advocated for weakening cable’s hold on the set-top box by providing alternatives for consumers — a proposal that was defeated.
In her statement Sohn said she decided late Monday to withdraw.
“The American people are the real losers here. The FCC deadlock, now over two years long, will remain so for a long time,” Sohn said in her statement.
“Your broadband will be more expensive for lack of competition, minority and underrepresented voices will be marginalized, and your private information will continue to be used and sold at the whim of your broadband provider,” Sohn said. “It is a sad day for our country and our democracy when dominant industries, with assistance from unlimited dark money, get to choose their regulators.”
Before news broke of Sohn’s withdrawal, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, announced he would vote against her. His office in a news release cited “years of partisan activism, inflammatory statements online and work with far-left groups.”
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FCC nominees normally don’t receive wide attention, but Sohn drew three committee hearings, the most recent last month.
She is well known in Washington after more than two decades of advocacy there, and after serving as counsel to the last Democratic FCC majority. Sohn has described herself as “an advocate for universal and affordable access to open and democratic communications networks.”
She founded the Public Knowledge advocacy group that often challenges communications industry stances before regulators.
Bloomberg writers Erik Wasson and Jenny Leonard contributed to this report.
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