Panel sends FTC nominee to full Senate for approval

WASHINGTON Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:47pm EST

WASHINGTON Dec 20 (Reuters) - A Senate committee sent the nomination of Joshua Wright to join the Federal Trade Commission on to the full Senate on Thursday, despite an acrimonious confirmation hearing in which Wright pledged to recuse himself from any Google investigation for two years because of conflicts of interest.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee did not vote on Wright's nomination, or that of other nominees, because it was unable to reach a quorum, said a senate aide, who asked not to be named.

The committee also sent straight to the Senate the nomination of Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat and the daughter of South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn. She has been nominated to serve a second term at the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates telecommunications. She joined the FCC in 2009.

It is unclear when the Senate will vote on the nominations.

Wright, a law professor at George Mason University, drew fire at his confirmation hearing on Dec. 4 because he has served as director of research at the International Center for Law and Economics, which received funding from Google. In academic papers he has also questioned the merits of bringing an antitrust case against the Web search giant.

The FTC is investigating allegations that Google broke antitrust law.

Wright, a Republican, faced pointed questions at a confirmation hearing about his criticisms of the FTC's Google probe, as well as about articles he has written criticizing efforts to rein in banks accused of abusive lending.

He was also questioned sharply on his position regarding the potential manipulation of gas prices, which fall under the FTC's jurisdiction.

If confirmed by the Senate, Wright will replace Republican Thomas Rosch on the agency's five-member commission. Rosch's term has ended.

The nomination is one of three to be filled among antitrust enforcers. The second is the Justice Department's assistant attorney general for antitrust, a position that has been vacant since August 2011. Respected antitrust veteran William Baer was nominated, but his nomination has stalled without explanation.

The FTC chairman, Jon Leibowitz, is expected to step down within two months. The front runners to replace him are thought to be current Democratic commissioners Edith Ramirez and Julie Brill, or Howard Shelanski, director of the FTC's Bureau of Economics.

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