The Lone Republican FTC Commissioner is Leaving, Claiming the Chairwoman Has Abused Her Power
The three Democratic commissioners said in a joint statement they “often disagreed” with their departing colleague, but wished her well.
The only Republican commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday she is resigning soon, alleging “abuses of government power” by the Democratic chair.
Christine Wilson, who has been an FTC commissioner since September 2018 and is serving a term that is supposed to expire in 2025, wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal outlining why she will be resigning. The approximately 1,160-person agency works to protect the public from deceptive or unfair business practices and methods of competition.
“Since [FTC Chairwoman] Ms. [Lina] Khan’s confirmation in 2021, my staff and I have spent countless hours seeking to uncover her abuses of government power,” Wilson wrote in the column, published Tuesday afternoon. “My fundamental concern with her leadership of the commission pertains to her willful disregard of congressionally imposed limits on agency jurisdiction, her defiance of legal precedent, and her abuse of power to achieve desired outcomes.”
The FTC is supposed to have five commissioners, who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but currently has four. Commissioners serve seven-year terms and no more than three can be from the same political party. The president selects one to be chair.
Wilson cited the situation involving FTC’s challenge to Meta’s acquisition of Within, a virtual reality gaming company, as one of her reasons for leaving.
“Before joining the FTC, Ms. Khan argued that Meta should be blocked from making any future acquisitions and wrote a report on the same issues as a congressional staffer,” Wilson wrote. “She would now sit as a purportedly impartial judge and decide whether Meta can acquire Within. Spurning due-process considerations and federal ethics obligations, my Democratic colleagues on the commission affirmed Ms. Khan’s decision not to recuse herself.”
Wilson also referenced changes in the agency’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Scores from 2020 to 2022 to allege the workforce also has issues with Khan. “In 2020, the last year under Trump appointees, 87% of surveyed FTC employees agreed that senior agency officials maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Today that share stands at 49%,” Wilson wrote.
That is one question of many in the annual survey administered by the Office of Personnel Management. In terms of the global satisfaction score, which takes into account how employees rate their jobs and pay, the FTC saw a slight increase in 2022.
“Many FTC staffers agree with Ms. Khan on antitrust policy, so these survey results don’t necessarily reflect disagreement with her ends,” according to Wilson. “Instead, the data convey the staffers’ discomfort with her means, which involve dishonesty and subterfuge to pursue her agenda.”
The article is not the first time Wilson has voiced her concerns about the agency. For instance, she told the American Bar Association in May 2022 “the procedures, traditions and norms that long have promoted the smooth functioning of the agency were jettisoned when Chair Khan arrived.”
Wilson previously served as the chief of staff to the FTC chair during the George W. Bush administration as well as a law clerk in the FTC’s Bureau of Competition while in law school in the 1990s.
Khan, along with other the Democratic commissioners, Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya, said in a statement: “While we often disagreed with Commissioner Wilson, we respect her devotion to her beliefs and are grateful for her public service. We wish her well in her next endeavor.”
Douglas Farrar, FTC spokesperson, told Government Executive that per FTC rules, the commission has “a quorum of the total currently serving members in order to transact business on the matter,” so once “Wilson resigns, barring other appointments, the quorum would be two (out of three).”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Wall Street Journal column and whether the president has any nominees in mind to replace Wilson and fill the other vacant seat.