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Biden order on competition sparks lobbying spree

Kate Ackley, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

He said the chamber sees a dynamic business environment rather than dangerous levels of corporate concentration and argued that “an aggressive regulatory approach will actually stifle competition and stifle innovation.”

The administration, by contrast, sees the economy heading toward a return of the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, a period of monopolies and rising income inequality.

Before signing the order on July 9, Biden offered his view: “What we’ve seen over the past few decades is less competition and more concentration that holds our economy back. We see it in big agriculture and Big Tech and Big Pharma, and the list goes on.”

Given the breadth of the order and that it takes a whole-of-government approach, Bradley said the chamber would undertake a similar “all of chamber” effort that would include messaging work, advocacy on the individual policies that flow from the order and, potentially, litigation.

Chris Netram, vice president of tax and domestic economic policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said his group too would make the process set out by the order a top priority. NAM’s membership includes companies in the technology, pharmaceutical, energy and industrial sectors.

“It is right up there,” he said of the position of Biden’s order on NAM’s list of priorities. “It really does rise to the top of the issues that the industry is concerned about.”

The order, and the possible new federal rules it may foster, “has the potential to significantly affect the manufacturing economy,” Netram said. “We plan to be engaged in every step.”

Taking market fights to Washington

Some companies, lobbyists said, see potential opportunities from the executive order, especially if it targets their competitors — bringing long-running market disputes front and center in Washington. The fights over the agency actions will likely pit sectors against each other, as well as individual companies against one another.

 

“There are always legitimate concerns across industries that no one company gain an unfair competitive advantage over others by consolidation,” said lobbyist Stephanie Silverman, who runs the firm Venn Strategies. But, she added, “it is very easy to overreach if regulators don’t understand the nuances of the industry.”

Silverman said that the order is very broad and that it’s unclear what the agencies will do to implement it. “The question across our client interests is whether regulators will look to implement the policies to restrict what they perceive as anticompetitive interests,” she said.

Friedman, whose firm Akin Gump issued an analysis of the order shortly after the president signed it, said lobbyists are looking at potential “touchpoints” including which officials are designated from each agency to work with the new White House Competition Council that has been created.

Like others on K Street, Friedman also plans to work with lawmakers and staff on Capitol Hill, as another avenue for influencing the process at the agencies. Lobbying groups and companies are also expected to band together around common policy goals.

“I do think you will see either loose coalitions or formal coalitions coalescing around some of the various recommendations,” Friedman said. The executive order, she added, was like pushing the “go” button “and now those agencies are going. But there’s a lot of work to be done.”

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(Roll Call's Lauren Clason and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.)

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