FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan by Tom Williams is licensed under Getty

On Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on Innovation, Data and Commerce held a hearing to examine the fiscal year (FY) 2025 appropriations budget for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). While FTC Chair Lina Khan has lobbied Congress to expand the agency’s bloated budget by an additional 25.7%, House Republicans have continually highlighted the FTC’s glaring deficiencies in leadership and operational efficiency. In the eyes of many skeptical lawmakers, this runaway agency deserves less taxpayers dollars, not more. 

Americans for Tax Reform applauds the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for their relentless pursuit of transparency, efficiency, and fiscal responsibility for the FTC. 

In a joint statement prior to the hearing, E&C Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Subcommittee Chairman Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) reminded FTC leadership of its obligation to enhance “consumer welfare without imposing undue burdens of business.” Unfortunately, due to a misguided allegiance to hipster antitrust doctrine, senior FTC officials have departed from the agency’s core mission. For this reason, House Republicans are eager to refocus the FTC’s priorities on “protecting the American people from actual harms and not getting distracted by ambiguous aims and theoretical goals.”

During the hearing, a number of Republican lawmakers expressed contempt for the ambitious FY 2025 budget proposed by FTC leadership. While Chair Khan advocated for expanded funding, Rep. John James (R-Mich.) countered with his own experience in the private sector, asserting that in “every industry…we’re expected to get more efficient, better, safer, faster, with less resources.” While American taxpayers are expected to do more with less, James argued that “the federal government is the only place that is not expected to get more efficient and better with less resources over time.” 

In addition to budgetary criticism, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) also took issue with plummeting levels of employee morale since the advent of the Khan era. As Cammack explained, before 2021, the Office of Personnel Management reported that 87% of FTC employees believed that senior FTC officials “maintained high standards of integrity and honesty.” However, after only one year at the helm, Khan’s leadership caused this figure to fall to 53%. In 2022, it dropped yet again to 47%. 

When confronted with these leadership failures, Khan proudly stated that the FTC “was among the ten best places to work among midsize government agencies”, insisting that employee discontent was a direct result of underfunding. For this reason, Khan recommended that “Congress can be very helpful [by] putting the FTC on parity with the pay scale of other financial regulators.” 

However, Cammack was not sympathetic to this argument, questioning whether this recent morale boost arose because dissatisfied employees “have since left, rather than some radical turnaround happening at your agency.” Sadly, rather than acknowledging the FTC’s dismal litigation record or ideological status-quo, Khan believes that more taxpayer funding is the band-aid she needs for her leadership woes. 

Although the agency is dominated by a 3-2 liberal majority, FTC commissioners Andrew Ferguson and Melissa Holyoak have proven steadfast in their commitment to foundational competition policy principles such as the consumer welfare standard. This ideological contrast was most apparent when Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) turned to issues regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and digital privacy rights. 

As Armstrong predicted, “I think this is the next big conversation…privacy in the 21st century is going to be the conversation we have.” Ferguson agreed, acknowledging the importance of digital privacy rights, but also warning lawmakers against “sort of strangling [AI] in the cradle early on.” Rather than trying to fit AI into the context of antitrust statutes from the early 20th century, Ferguson insisted that “Congress has to tell [the FTC]…how to do these tradeoffs.” This deference to congressional authority, rather than rogue administrative rulemaking, would be a refreshing change to FTC conduct under Khan.

House Republicans have been working hard to ensure the FTC is held accountable to the American public. Rather than rewarding runaway bureaucrats with more taxpayer dollars, conservative lawmakers have demanded transparency, efficiency and fiscal responsibility from the FTC. 

Americans for Tax Reform applauds the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for continually fighting the excesses of the administrative state.