Lobbying the FTC

The FTC, as with many other agencies, lacks the same kinds of lobbying disclosure rules applied to Congress. As a result, it is a venue for intense yet opaque lobbying and this has been the case since the Agency was founded. In particular, historically members of Congress have tried to influence the Commission. Professor William E. Leuchtenburg related that the FTC had been assaulted by, “interest groups speaking through Congressmen. One Commissioner recalled, ‘Senators who would not think of seeking to influence a court in the decision of a case pending before it have no compunction about stalking the halls of the Commission and offering ex parte arguments and representations concerning cases pending before it.’” [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][1]

Academics have produced policy work to affect the Commission, sometimes without disclosing that it is client-funded, [2] and that it is not formal academic work. Rules concerning disclosure of consulting work vary from school to school, and lawyers and business school professors may feel obligated not to disclose such sponsorship, to protect client confidentiality. Nonetheless, there is some surprise when these relationships become public.[3]

Yet, this is not a new issue. Writing in 1932, Blaisdell summarized thousands of pages of reports concerning methods of “making” public opinion that would be recognized today as modern public relations strategies. These included:

“Newspapers and magazines had been supplied with articles, news releases, and ‘boiler plate’ favorable to the ideas of those in charge of the corporations in the industry. Speakers with the ‘right attitude’ had been made available to meetings of the Rotary Clubs…Articles by college professors, also in the employ of publicity committees, had been distributed without indicating the relationship of the professor to the industry. Outlines had been prepared to assist instructors giving course in public utility economics. Textbooks had been written…influence brought to bear to have ‘prejudiced’ textbooks dropped, well-known college administrators employed to organize conferences…All this had been done for the purpose of cultivating good-will towards the industry.”[4]

[1] The Supreme Court Reborn: The Constitutional Revolution in the Age of Roosevelt 77 (1995).

[2] See Willard F. Mueller, Advertising, Monopoly, and the FTC’s Breakfast-Cereal Case: An “Attack on Advertising?,” 6 Antitrust L. & Econ. Rev. 59 1972 (discussing University of Chicago’s Yale Brozen).

[3] See e.g. Robert Weisman, Academics’ ‘PR’ work raises eyebrows, Ethicists questioning efforts for Greenberg Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, resigned in 2005, The Boston Globe, Apr. 5, 2005, (discussing University of Chicago’s Richard Epstein); Glenn Simpson, Consumer-Privacy Issue Turns a Retired Professor into a Hot Item, The Wall Street Journal, Jun. 25, 2001 (discussing Columbia University’s Alan F. Westin: “[Westin] is on the payrolls of many of the large financial services, technology and marketing companies that have resisted new privacy rules and legislation…”).

[4] Thomas L. Blaisdell, The Federal Trade Commission: An Experiment in the Control of Business 261 (1932). The reports on industry goodwill can be found in volumes 71-A and 81-A, Utility Corporations, Letter from the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission in Response to Senate Resolution No. 83, Senate Doc. 92, 70th Congress 1st Sess. March 15, 1928, http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/003849155[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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