Rep. Bilirakis Quotes Kelley Drye’s Ad Law Access at House Energy & Commerce Committee Hearing: Critique of FTC Strategy Now on the Record

On September 21, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., cited the Kelley Drye article “The Deletion of ‘Legitimate Business Activity’ from the FTC’s Strategic Plan” during a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing before entering it into the record. From the transcript:

*Mr. Bilirakis.

For years, the FTC has been tasked with the critical role of protecting consumers and competition by preventing anti-competitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices. And under both Republican and Democratic administrations and leadership, commissioners on both sides of the FTC have understood and accepted this responsibility to perform these duties without -- and I am quoting -- "without unduly burdening legitimate’’ -- I want to emphasize the word legitimate -- "business activity.’’ Sadly, President Biden's hand-picked FTC chair decided to end this bipartisan consensus, like she has in many other areas. But I am going to focus just on this. And again, we want to know why. We want to know why. And if someone is directing her to do this in the Administration, who?

So last November, Chairwoman Lina Khan released the FTC's draft strategic plan for 2022 through 2026. At a time of a record inflation, it is wrong to take for granted businesses that are just trying to get back on their feet, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of small businesses in our nation are doing the right things and trying their best by struggling with the costs of everyday input items just to stay afloat. And this Administration's regulate-first mindset has made things so much worse. Previously, the bipartisan support for the inclusion of the phrase -- and I quote again -- "without unduly burdening legitimate business activity’’ in FTC mission statements has signaled to businesses in every one of our districts that the agency's rules and regulations will be tailored and targeted to bad actors, fraudsters, and illegal conduct. And that has been the norm all these years. Why does she want to change this? I mean, we need to know. We need to get to the bottom of this, and that the rules of the road will preserve the core functions that provide Americans with everyday products and services.

In an article published by Kelley, Drye, and Warren, they signaled, "The former inclusion of the phrase alluded to the FTC's recognition that legitimate business activity benefits consumers and competition, and has consistently made a public commitment to preserve it.’’ Mr. Chairman, I ask for unanimous consent for this article to be entered into the record, and I will get you the article. If that –

*The Chairman. I mean, I have to look at it first.

*Mr. Bilirakis. Okay. Of course, of course. We made our views known to Chair Khan, Mr. Chairman, and remained hopeful this change would be given more thought in light of the severe damage our economy is already suffering. Unfortunately, our input and oversight role was completely ignored, and the chair moved ahead in August with a partisan vote to adopt this component of the progressive agenda. And I -- you know, this is alarming. I know Democrats on the other side are pro-small business, as well, and this is very alarming. So I take this very seriously.

So why did Chairman Khan remove it from the mission statement? Republicans on this committee asked this very same question to Chair Khan. Her response, and I quote, "The agency is currently considering the comments received on the draft strategic plan, including some comments that raise the question about the elimination of ‘without unduly burdening legitimate business activity’ in the draft mission statement.’’ This drastic and tragic policy change occurs on the back of the Biden Administration's watch over one of our nation's worst economic recessions, where our constituents are paying more for every single aspect of their life, from gas to produce, to meats, electricity. Even Chairman Khan couldn't tell us why it is now suddenly necessary to scare legitimate businesses into -- they are having a hard time, as it is -- scare legitimate businesses into thinking they are doing something wrong. And yet this Administration and this agency seem to have gone rogue by signaling to small businesses that they are coming for them.

I don't know why the Biden Administration would send a message like this to businesses that are already struggling to stay afloat, as I said, during the economic turmoil that this Administration helped create, but I surely will not stand idly by, watching good businesses in my district being targeted for doing nothing but working to provide goods and services to my constituents and our community. And of course, I know you will be concerned, all of our members here. If you share this same sentiment, please, I urge you to vote in favor of advancing my resolution to the House floor, and I will yield back the balance of my time. Thank you -- unless somebody else wants it, 34 seconds, I guess. Thank you.

We followed-up that article last month with “The FTC’s Mission Statement for 2022-2026: “Legitimate Business Activity” Still Missing in Action” and noted that the Commission majority adopted the deletion of “without unduly burdening legitimate business activity” from the FTC’s Mission Statement from its final Strategic Plan for 2022-2026.

Stay tuned.

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