By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON Dec 4 A Republican law professor
nominated to the Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday he
would recuse himself from the agency's investigations into
Google for two years to avoid any possible conflicts of
The FTC is investigating Google for allegedly breaking
antitrust law, although the probe could well be done before
Joshua Wright is confirmed to the commission.
Wright has served as director of research at the
International Center for Law and Economics, a group that
received funding from Google. In academic papers he has
questioned the merits of bringing an antitrust case against the
Web search giant.
"Google, I will recuse myself for a minimum of two years,"
Wright, a professor at George Mason University, told the Senate
in a confirmation hearing before the Committee on Commerce,
Science and Transportation.
The committee is expected to vote next week on whether to
send Wright's nomination and others to the full Senate for
Wright faced withering questions from Sen. Barbara Boxer, a
California Democrat, who pressed him on articles he had written
criticizing efforts to rein in banks accused of abusive lending,
which led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection
She also asked about Wright's criticism of the FTC itself,
citing comments that she said "seem to indicate that you doubt
the FTC's mission."
"You have written some things that give me pause," Boxer
Wright sought to allay her concerns, saying that the
criticisms were not aimed at the current CFPB but an earlier,
proposed iteration. He also said he strongly believed in the
fundamental FTC mission of protecting consumers.
Wright was also asked about the FTC's role in ensuring
fairness in the gasoline market.
Boxer made reference to a gasoline price spike earlier this
year and widespread suspicion that it was not caused by normal
market forces but by price manipulation.
Wright responded that he would look into what investigations
the FTC had underway on gas prices. Washington Sen. Maria
Cantwell tweeted minutes after the hearing ended that "won't
support @FTC nominee who doesn't help implement
Senators also questioned Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat and the
daughter of South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn. She has been
nominated for a second term at the FCC, which regulates
telecommunications. She joined the commission in 2009.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, pressed Clyburn on
efforts to get better mobile service for rural areas. "I am
really pleading for the entire commission to look at this
again," she said.
Clyburn responded that the issue was on the FCC's agenda. "I
assure you that the FCC is currently conducting investigations.
Our enforcement bureau is doing that," she said.
The FCC, which along with the Justice Department stopped
AT&T's merger with T-Mobile USA last year, has at least
two hot-button issues on its plate.
It is organizing an auction of spectrum now owned by
broadcasters in hopes that it will ease wireless carriers'
spectrum crunch. And it is seeking to require Dish Network Corp
to use lower power in a spectrum band to prevent its
signal from bleeding into adjacent spectrum.
Wright has been a research director at the International
Center for Law & Economics, which has accepted funding from
If confirmed by the Senate, Wright will replace Republican
Thomas Rosch on the agency's five-member commission. Rosch's
term has ended.