Democratic Critic of House TikTok Bill Has Ties to App

Sen. Maria Cantwell (Getty Images)
March 14, 2024

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), a leading critic of the House’s sell-or-ban bill against TikTok, has ties to the Chinese-owned video-sharing app, with at least three of her former senior staffers working or lobbying for the app. 

The House on Wednesday passed a bill requiring TikTok’s China-based parent company, ByteDance, to divest from its American operations or face a ban, and sent the bill to the Senate for consideration. Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, indicated she is opposed to banning TikTok in the United States, instead favoring more regulations on TikTok and other foreign apps, according to Politico

The outlet also reported this week on Cantwell’s ties to the popular video-sharing platform. Rosemary Gutierrez, Cantwell’s former deputy chief of staff and acting legislative director, is now one of 12 employees at Mehlman Consulting lobbying for TikTok on issues including "privacy, content moderation, cyber security, protecting children, data protection and supporting communities." 

Meanwhile, Cantwell’s former chief of staff Michael Meehan and former staff director for the Senate Commerce Committee Kim Lipsky are working in government relations for TikTok, according to Politico. Meehan started a political consulting firm called Squared Communications, which is reportedly tasked with compiling media clips for TikTok’s government relations office. 

"The whole point here is you have a dilemma," Cantwell said of the House TikTok bill. "You want free speech, but you also want the United States to have some ability to protect U.S. citizens or U.S. military from foreign actors who might be deleterious in what they would be using as a tool of communication. So we want to get a tool to those people, whether that’s the Department of Commerce or DOJ, so that they can sustain those actions."

Published under: Maria Cantwell , TikTok