A group of four Democratic lawmakers led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren is telling Amazon and Facebook to halt what they call a "coordinated attack to discredit" on Lina Khan, the Federal Trade Commission chair.
Both companies have sought to have Khan, a noted tech critic, recuse herself from cases involving them because, they argue, her prior work in think tanks, Congress and academia shows that she has unfairly prejudged them.
The lawmakers struck back in a Wednesday letter to Andy Jassy and Mark Zuckerberg.
"To argue that federal ethics laws preclude Chair Khan from exercising her expertise is illogical and inconsistent with the plain language of the relevant statutes and with FTC ethics officials' interpretations of recusal requirements," said Warren, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Cory Booker, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
The FTC is currently deciding whether to refile an antitrust complaint against Facebook after a federal judge dismissed the commission's first complaint in June, and the FTC is investigating Amazon's competitive conduct and its proposed acquisition of MGM.
"The real basis of your concerns appears to be that you fear Chair Khan's expertise and interpretation of federal antitrust law," the four members of Congress added, saying that Khan has none of the financial interests that generally prompt recusal and suggesting the companies are "attempting to bully your regulators, disarm the FTC, and avoid accountability rather than to strengthen ethics standards."
The lawmakers also requested information on company attorneys and lobbyists who formerly worked for government enforcers or Congress, and how the companies ensure these officials do not have inappropriate conversations with former colleagues or employers and recuse themselves when necessary.