Column: Shaheen should restore cuts to antitrust enforcement


For the Valley News

Published: 03-07-2024 10:10 PM

Our New Hampshire Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, chairs the appropriations subcommittee responsible for Justice Department funding. This week, that committee released a new bill that would slash $45 million from the Antitrust Division budget. The bill, which needs to pass to keep the government from shutting down, is over 1,000 pages long, and it appears that Shaheen and her subcommittee are counting on the lack of time for review to help pass this effort to undermine the ability of the Justice Department to hold corporate giants accountable for violations of antitrust law.

As is too often the case, it appears Sen. Shaheen was acting on behalf of her donors, not her constituents. Over the past few years, she's received large donations from corporations that have come under antitrust scrutiny, including Raytheon, UnitedHealth Group and Google.

According to Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division, the division employs 230 fewer staffers today than it had in 1979. Cutting an additional $45 million from the department budget will undermine the Biden Administration’s efforts to hold deep-pocketed corporations accountable. The day this new language was released President Biden tweeted, "Capitalism without competition isn't capitalism — it's exploitation."

It would be one thing if Sen. Shaheen was continuing with a status quo, however, this budget cut is anything but the norm. Shaheen is out of step with her constituents, the White House and her colleagues.

Shaheen is also out of step with other senators who have worked tirelessly to add the much-needed funds to the antitrust agencies. On March 5, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., gave floor speech and explained how the change would reverse "decades of precedent." She emphasized why antitrust issues matter to everyone, Republican or Democrat. “If you're someone wondering, why does something cost so much? Or why don't I have a choice? You've got to look at the consolidation going on in this country.”

The antitrust agencies are always going to be out-funded when challenging dominant companies, but Sen. Shaheen’s budget cut would significantly damage the efficacy of these agencies, and that shouldn’t sit well with any of us.

As Zephyr Teachout, a Norwich-raised antitrust professor, recently said, funds need to be restored in the next version of this bill. “This is existential for fighting corporate concentration.”

I urge you to call or write Sen. Shaheen today to reverse her stance on this bill.

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Hanover native Krista Brown worked for four years at the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly and small business advocacy nonprofit, and is now a researcher for the corporate investigations team at The Capitol Forum, an investigative news organization.