FTC Hires Anti-Musk Activist Amid Agency’s Investigation of Twitter

New hire Sarah Miller highlights close relationship between FTC and left-wing advocacy groups that objected to Musk's Twitter takeover

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March 10, 2023

An antitrust activist who lobbied for federal investigations of Elon Musk is joining the Federal Trade Commission as a special adviser, as the agency ramps up its probe into Twitter’s security practices under Musk.

Sarah Miller, the founder of the American Economic Liberties Project, will serve as special adviser to FTC chair Lina Khan, a Biden appointee whom Republicans have accused of "weaponizing" the agency.

Miller called for the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment to investigate Musk's purchase of Twitter in October, saying his business ties to China are "concerning."

The hiring move follows reports that the FTC is seeking to depose Musk and obtain records of the company’s correspondence with journalists, as part of its probe of recent layoffs and data protection policies at Twitter.

Miller’s hiring also highlights the close relationship between the FTC and left-wing advocacy groups, many of which objected to Musk’s Twitter takeover and his promise to lift speech restrictions that the company had used to target conservatives. The news could also add to concerns, raised by House Republicans, that the FTC’s Twitter probe is the "result of partisan pressure to target Twitter and silence Musk."

An FTC spokesperson told the Washington Free Beacon that Miller's hiring is unrelated to Twitter and she will "take no part whatsoever in the investigation of Twitter's possible violations of its consent order or any other investigation the FTC conducts."

"It should surprise absolutely no one that a Biden appointee would hire a former Obama administration Treasury official who shares similar views of the vital role that robust antitrust enforcement plays in protecting consumers and ensuring fair competition in the American economy," said the spokesperson.

The FTC is examining whether Twitter is complying with requirements to protect user data, after Musk laid off a large portion of its employees. But House Republicans say the probe has turned into a fishing expedition and an "aggressive campaign to harass Twitter and deluge it with demands about its personnel decisions."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), a member of the House select committee that released a report criticizing the FTC investigation this week, said Khan—also a former antitrust activist—has "weaponized" the agency.

"Lina Khan is the most dangerous regulator far too many don’t know about, and her weaponized FTC is obviously assembling an enemies list to suffer the abuse of its power," Issa told the Washington Free Beacon. "That’s what Elon Musk is finding out, and he won’t be the last. There’s no way our committee can just look away and not deal with this."

Miller founded the American Economic Liberties Project in 2020 with funding from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who has bankrolled several other organizations leading the anti-Musk pressure campaign.

The AELP lobbied the Biden administration in October to investigate Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and his administration of Starlink. Miller said at the time that Musk’s purchase did "not raise antitrust concerns" involving the FTC. But she claimed the acquisition posed security risks that merited other federal investigations.

"Elon Musk’s potential dependencies on the Chinese government are concerning, and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. should investigate his takeover of Twitter," said Miller, in a statement published by AELP. "As should the Federal Communication Commission, considering Musk’s control of Starlink’s satellite internet service."

The FTC sent Twitter a list of over 350 requests in the three months after Musk bought the company, including demands for any internal correspondence "relating to Elon Musk," details about the company’s journalist contacts and information on specific personnel decisions, according to the House Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

In a report on Tuesday, the committee argued that the FTC investigation was driven by a "persistent, fever-pitched pressure campaign by left-wing activists and Democrats."

One of the leading anti-Musk pressure groups cited in the report is the Open Markets Institute, where Miller previously served as deputy director and Khan served as director of legal policy.

OMI has repeatedly called on federal agencies to take action against Musk. In October, the group urged the FTC to block the Twitter acquisition, saying Musk "poses a number of immediate and direct threats to American democracy, free speech, and national security." Omidyar’s foundation has donated at least $100,000 to the OMI, according to its website.