Mar 11, 2011
Washington, DC - Senator Michael S. Lee (R-UT) today called for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee to conduct an oversight hearing on Google Inc. Lee joins Chairman Herb Kohl in encouraging hearings on the business practices of the dominant search firm. Lee is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee.
In a letter to Kohl, Lee noted that those who follow the tech industry, as well as those responsible for enforcing antitrust laws, have concerns that Google could be acting to harm competition.
“The powerful position Google occupies in the general search arena creates myriad opportunities for anticompetitive behavior,” Lee writes. “The Deputy Director for Antitrust within the Bureau of Economics at the Federal Trade Commission, Howard Shelanski, recently observed that a ‘hypothetical search engine’ with various ‘scale and network economies’ might become a ‘must have’ for consumers and thereby more effectively engage in ‘anticompetitive discrimination.’”
Given its prominent position in the search and search-advertising markets, Google in some ways acts as a gatekeeper over a variety of Internet businesses.
In particular, Lee’s letter points to Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA software, which could potentially provide Google with the ability to control the travel search vertical market, currently populated by sites like Kayak, Travelocity, and Orbitz.
“Google’s position as the preeminent search engine may be abused so as to disadvantage competing vertical search sites to the detriment of advertisers and internet users,” Lee writes.
Lee adds that Google’s acquisition of personal data through searches and its many products, such as Gmail, Google Checkout, Google Books, and Google Web History, couldpresent serious privacy issues.
“Google’s powerful position as an Internet gatekeeper reduces the company’s incentive to compete with other search engines by providing enhanced privacy protection for consumers.”
“The combination of behavioral and personal information enables Google to generate consumer data that is unprecedented in scale and scope. These activities raise serious privacy concerns and may be indicative of an important market that is largely unconstrained by competition. Antitrust enforcement may unlock beneficial competition for the protection of user privacy and avert the need for additional privacy regulation.”
Utah has a growing tech sector with several large companies set to expand their businesses in the state, and was awarded Forbes “Best State for Businesses” in 2010.
“As an increasing number of companies with an online presence expand and create jobs, we want to make to maintain and competitive and business-friendly environment,” Lee said.
The full text of Senator Lee’s letter to Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl is included below:
March 10, 2011
The Honorable Herb Kohl
Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chairman Kohl:
I write to express my strong concerns relating to Google Inc.’s possible abuse of its predominant position in the general internet search arena and the need for vigorous antitrust oversight and enforcement in this area. As the new ranking member of the Antitrust Subcommittee, I look forward to working with you to hold a hearing on this important issue. I recognize and applaud your efforts in this area of vital importance.
The proper functioning of our nation’s free-enterprise system is critical during the current economic downturn. Enforcement of the antitrust laws is especially important for sectors in which the United States has been a leader, such as the e-commerce and online advertising industries. Antitrust enforcement is far preferable to the creation of inefficient government regulation and bureaucracy that could hamper innovation in these crucial industries. Internet search is of particular concern to me because Utah – recently labeled by Newsweek as the “new economic Zion” due to its growing number of high tech businesses – has a significant interest in preserving open competition in this importantarea of our economy.
Many commentators, as well as those responsible for enforcing antitrust laws, have voiced serious questions concerning whether Google has acted to harm competition. Given its prominent position in the search and search advertising markets, Google in some ways acts as a gatekeeper over a variety of internet businesses. Among other things, commentators have expressed concern that Google may be using its position to harm specialized (or so-called “vertical”) search sites. If allowed to compete free of restraints, vertical search sites – such as travel, mapping, and shopping sites – could attract users and advertisers from Google’s search platforms. Some vertical search sites have accused Google of using its power to deprive those websites of internet traffic by biasing the display of its search-advertising and search results.
Likewise, some claim that Google may disadvantage rivals in subtle, potentially undetectable, ways. Indeed, Google’s founders recognized as early as 1998 that “a search engine could add a small factor to search results from ‘friendly’ companies, and subtract a factor from results from competitors” and that “[t]his type of bias is very difficult to detect but could still have a significant effect on the market.” Whether this type of behavior is occurring is a question of great practical significance. The powerful position Google occupies in the general search arena creates myriad opportunities for anticompetitive behavior. The Deputy Director for Antitrust within the Bureau of Economics at the Federal Trade Commission, Howard Shelanski, recently observed that a “hypothetical search engine” with various “scale and network economies” might become a “must have” for consumers and thereby more effectively engage in “anticompetitive discrimination.” According to Shelanski, “once one realizes there could be an application . . . that is more essential to consumers than any particular downstream network, then the locus of possible bottleneck discrimination . . . shifts upstream.”
The DOJ has extensively analyzed bias in the display of airfares to travel agents on airline-owned computerized reservation systems (“CRSs”) and concluded that “[p]erhaps the most effective and insidious method by which an airline can use a CRS with market power to punish other carriers for competing with it is secretly to bias the system in favor of the host carrier.” The DOJ went on to point out that “[b]ias influences, and may mislead, the travel agent who uses CRS in such a way as to cause airline ticket revenues to shift from competing carriers to the host.” In a similar way, Google’s position as the preeminent search engine may be abused so as to disadvantage competing horizontal and vertical search sites to the detriment of advertisers and internet users. As you know, the DOJ is in the process of determining whether to approve Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA Software – a deal that could potentially provide Google with the ability to control the travel search vertical market.
In addition to its consideration of the contemplated ITA acquisition, I believe the DOJ should also investigate whether Google’s powerful position as an internet gatekeeper reduces the company’s incentive to compete with other search engines by providing enhanced privacy protection for consumers. Google collects an unequaled amount of information about consumers through its search platform, including data about web searches, reactions to online advertising, and precise geographic location for both mobile devices and personal computers. Google also gathers an enormous amount of consumer information through its related products and services, including Gmail, Google Checkout, Google Books, and Google Web History. Google has admitted that for nearly three years it used its Street View mapping service – without notice or consent – to access unprotected Wi-Fi networks and amass extensive information about theinternet activities of American consumers in all 50 states. The combination of behavioral and personal information enables Google to generate consumer data that is unprecedented in scale and scope. These activities raise serious privacy concerns and may be indicative of an important market that is largely unconstrained by competition. Antitrust enforcement may unlock beneficial competition for the protection of user privacy and avert the need for additional privacy regulation.
Oversight by our Subcommittee is essential in helping free markets flourish in this important area of our economy. Ensuring robust competition will benefit consumers, spur innovation, and lead to job creation in our nation’s high-tech internet economy. Utah, ranked by Forbes magazine as the “Best State for Business” in 2010, will likewise benefit from the preservation of competition in this area. Vigorous antitrust enforcement is almost always preferable to a system of government regulations, which will inevitably be more costly and less efficient than a free market unencumbered by anticompetitive restrictions.
I very much appreciate your efforts in this regard and look forward to our work together.
Michael S. Lee
Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee
Mar 9, 2011
WASHINGTON – After voting against both the Democrat and GOP spending bills, Senator Mike Lee of Utah released the following statement:
“The fight over cutting $10 billion or $60 billion is not a serious discussion about how to fix what’s broken,” said Lee. “It does not begin to address our massive $1.65 trillion deficit, and completely ignores any long-term structural restraints necessary to impede Congress’s insatiable appetite to spend. If you think of our annual deficit as a football field, the Democrat proposal moves the ball just over half a yard toward the goal line. The Republican proposal moves it just three and a half yards. That is not a winning strategy for the country.
“As long as these spending proposals maintain the status quo on our deficit and debt without instituting some measure of external structural control, I will oppose them.”
Senator Lee has proposed a Balanced Budget Amendment that would act as a strict structural restraint on spending and force Congress to prioritize its constitutional obligations. During an interview this week, Senator Lee reiterated his willingness to filibuster any effort to increase the national debt, without first voting on a Balanced Budget Amendment.
“I will resist any effort to raise the national debt ceiling, and that will include utilizing the filibuster rules,” Lee said. See the full interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZxFSwgNp-0
Mar 2, 2011
WASHINGTON - Today, Senator Mike Lee of Utah announced that he would vote against a proposed spending bill intended to fund government activity for two weeks. The Senator said the continuing resolution did not reflect the message the American people sent last year to make significant cuts to government spending and reduce the national debt.
"The proposal is a disappointing failure on the part of both parties to seriously address the economic meltdown we face from our massive deficit and growing national debt," said Lee. "While some have been patting themselves on the back for proposing $4 billion in so-called ‘cuts’, in reality, this bill fully funds billions upon billions of dollars in wasteful, duplicative programs that should be eliminated, reduced, or reformed.
"Support for the ‘continuing resolution’ means continuing Congress's unfortunate record of driving this country into debt. If a $1.6 trillion deficit and $15 trillion national debt do not force this Congress into bold action, then I have little patience for procedural games that kick the can an inch or two down the street.
"This is not the kind of legislation the people of Utah sent me to Washington to support and I cannot in good faith do so."
Mar 1, 2011
WASHINGTON—Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) today delivered his first official speech on the Senate floor, focusing on the need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Lee has been a staunch advocate for structural budgetary restraints that will hold Congress accountable for how it spends taxpayer resources. The speech included a call to move past the traditional partisan divides over spending and make the tough choices to reduce the country’s massive national debt.
“In the past there has been a great debate between, on the one hand, some Republicans who have been unwilling to cut some programs - to consider in any context cuts in the area of, say, national defense. You've had others who perhaps from the other party have been unwilling to consider any cuts to any entitlement program.
“But we're now faced with a scenario in which both sides of the aisle can understand that our perpetual deficit spending habit places in jeopardy every single aspect of the operations of the federal government.
“We now face a moment when both liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, regardless of what they most want to protect most in their federal government, have to realize that what they most want to protect is placed in grave jeopardy by our current spending practices.
“I'm troubled by the fact that as we approach debate surrounding a continuing resolution, this week a continuing resolution is likely to operate for just a few weeks to keep the government funded, we're still talking about adding on an annualized basis to our national debt at $1.5 trillion a year.
“I think the American people deserve better. I know that they demand better. And some of the things that we saw in the 2010 election cycle portends something greater than what we're going to see in the 2012 election cycle. Americans want Congress to balance the budget and they want us to do something about it, more than just talking about it.
“Benjamin Franklin used to say, ‘He'll cheat without scruple, who can without fear.’ I think the congressional corollary to that might be that Congress, which can continue to engage in perpetual deficit spending, will continue to do unless or until the people require that Congress to put itself in a straitjacket. That's the straitjacket we need. That's why I'm proposing this [Balanced Budget] Amendment.”
Senator Lee has recently introduced a “sense of the Senate” amendment to a bill being debated in the Senate today that would put Members on record as supporting or opposing a nonspecific Balanced Budget proposal.
Lee’s specific constitutional amendment, SJ Res 5, cosponsored by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, includes the following three pillars: (1) requiring a balanced budget for each fiscal year, (2) limiting federal spending to no more than 18 percent of GDP, and (3) requiring a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress in order to increase taxes, raise the debt ceiling, or run a specific deficit in a particular year.
Feb 27, 2011
WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee of Utah introduced legislation that would signify the level of support in the Senate for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Added as an amendment to a patent reform bill being debated today, Lee’s “sense of the Senate” stipulates that “Congress should pass and the States should agree to an amendment to the Constitution requiring a Federal balanced budget.” Lee said it was important to get all Senators on the record before the Senate votes on a continuing resolution to fund the government or an increase in the debt limit.
“The debate over America’s fiscal future must begin with a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment,” said Lee. “The American people should know whether or not the Senate is serious about getting spending under control and reducing the national debt before we vote on even a short-term extension of current spending. While I will continue to push for a full vote on the Lee-Kyl Balanced Budget Amendment, the ‘sense of the Senate’ motion is a reasonable place to start.“
Though Senator Lee does have a specific Balanced Budget Amendment proposal, the motion does not stipulate the details of any particular amendment. The purpose of the motion is to gauge support for a strong structural restraint on spending that will hold Congress accountable.
Feb 22, 2011
WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee of Utah released the following statement ahead of next week’s budget debate and amid accusations of a potential government shutdown:
“The question remains whether Senate Democrats will follow President Obama in penalizing the American people with massive tax increases, or whether they will instead take responsibility for years of excess and make sensible spending reductions in the current budget. Frankly, American taxpayers are not to blame for our massive deficit and we should not look to balance our budget on their backs. Americans are overtaxed as it is. The charge lies with Congress to show some fiscal restraint.
“Further, the threat from Democrats to shut down the government in order to protect excessive spending is utterly disappointing. That threat is unnecessary, irresponsible, and unwarranted. Republicans have suggested closing a mere fraction of our $1.5 trillion deficit, and this suggestion deserves serious consideration without resorting to talk of panic. This is another unfortunate reminder of why we need a procedural restraint, such as the Lee-Kyl proposal for a Balanced Budget Amendment, so we can avoid the kind of politics that could endanger our prosperity.”
Feb 22, 2011
Washington – Today, Senator Mike Lee released the following statement regarding Wisconsin’s state budget battle and President Obama injecting himself into the controversy:
“The states have traditionally been laboratories for policy reform and I support Governor Walker’s attempt to take the harder, but fiscally responsible, road. As in many states, Governor Walker faces difficult challenges and not a lot of good answers. I applaud his effort to make tough decisions and stand firm for what he believes is the best for the people of Wisconsin.
“Governor Walker’s courage stands in stark contrast to the budget proposal put forth by President Obama, who unfortunately waded into this purely state matter recently. It is unclear why the President would ignore the coming crisis in the federal retirement system, but feel it necessary to publicly comment on Wisconsin’s. We need courageous leadership from Congress and the President to address the nation’s fiscal challenges. My Balanced Budget Amendment, which holds Washington accountable for prioritizing our constitutional obligations, would be a strong first step to doing just that.”
Jan 27, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC—Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) today introduced a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The amendment includes three pillars: (1) requiring a balanced budget for each fiscal year, (2) limiting federal spending to no more than 18 percent of GDP, and (3) requiring a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress in order to increase taxes, raise the debt ceiling, or run a specific deficit in a particular year.
Senator Kyl stated, “We can’t wait any longer to ensure Congress will rein in wasteful Washington spending. This balanced budget and spending limit amendment will do just that.”
“The federal government is too big and too expensive and the temptation for Congress to continue to spend billions and even trillions of dollars it does not have is simply too high. Again and again, even well-intentioned efforts to restrain deficit spending through the normal budget process have failed,” said Senator Lee. “A balanced budget amendment is the only certain method to ensure that the federal government consistently lives within its means. This past November’s election made clear that the American people will no longer tolerate reckless government spending and ever-expanding federal debt. The amendment that Senator Kyl and I have introduced is the essential first step in putting the nation’s fiscal house in order.”
In addition to Senator Lee and Senator Kyl, the number two Senate Republican leader, the amendment has received broad support from conservative leaders including Senators Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, David Vitter, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and John Thune as original co-sponsors as well as endorsements from conservative organizations like the Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks, and Americans for a Balanced Budget Amendment.
Jan 26, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC—Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) today received committee assignments for his first term, which include seats on the Judiciary; Energy and Natural Resources; Foreign Relations; and Joint Economic committees.
“I’m thrilled about these committee assignments and look forward to having an active role in each. These seats will allow me to work on issues that are crucial to the Utah delegation, as well as the country as a whole. It’s time for the real work to begin.”
Serving on the Energy and Natural Resources committee has been of particular interest to Senator Lee, Energy and Natural Resources committee, which will enable him to focus on freeing up federal lands for economic uses to create jobs, encourage economic growth and lead the U.S. towards energy independence. The Senator also plans to work towards creating greater certainty for regulations and bringing the lands under more local control.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is chaired by Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VA), and is responsible for holding hearings prior to the Senate votes on confirmation of federal judges. Senator Lee’s background in Constitutional law and his time serving as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s law clerk have well-prepared him for this assignment.
The Foreign Relations Committee is chaired by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and addresses issues of national security, U.S. boundaries, as well as foreign, economic, military, technical and humanitarian assistance.
The Joint Economic Committee is lead by Congresswoman Maloney (D-NY), and is a bicameral committee composed of 10 members from the Senate, and ten from the House of Representatives. The committee provides continuous attention to matters relating to the U.S. economy.
The Senate is divided into twenty committees to accommodate for the high volume and complexity of the legislation at hand. Committee assignments are made by senior party members.
Jan 6, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC—Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) today sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to request that all communications relating to Secretarial Order 3310 be disclosed to the public. The Senator also asked for a personal meeting to discuss this major policy that will detrimentally impact Utah communities.
“The policies set forth by Secretary Salazar will increase uncertainty for Utah businesses that involve federal lands, and also hinder energy production at a time when developing domestic energy sources is so critical,” said Senator Lee. “This order will result in lost jobs, investment and revenues at a time when we can least afford it. I will not sit idly by while the federal government puts a chokehold on our most valuable resources.”
The order allows the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to designate areas with wilderness characteristics as “Wild Lands” and to retain their wilderness characteristics. This designation imposes the most restrictive land use policies available, placing severe limitations on public access, inhibiting energy producing activities, and forbidding motorized and mechanized recreation.
In addition to the negative impact this policy will have on Utah’s economy, Interior’s action undercuts previous assurances given to Utah’s elected officials.
“Simply relabeling these lands as ‘Wild Lands’ seems to be a game of semantics,” said Senator Lee, “and is an unacceptable departure from Secretary Salazar’s previous assurances.”