Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks during the House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing titled “The Basis for an Impeachment Inquiry of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.,” in Rayburn Building on Thursday, September 28, 2023.
Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
If Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio is elected the speaker of the House Tuesday, tech giants like Google, Apple, and Amazon could see the push to pass major tech antitrust legislation put on hold during his speakership, political strategists and industry lobbyists told CNBC.
“If Jim Jordan becomes Speaker, it is very unlikely that Congress will do anything on big tech in the near future,” said Jon Schweppe, a policy director at the conservative American Principles Project.
Jordan won the GOP speaker nomination in a closed door vote of the Republican conference last Friday. But he faced a tricky path to assembling the 217 votes needed to win the gavel in a closely divided chamber. Now, Republicans plan to hold a full floor vote Tuesday at noon on Jordan’s speakership.
As Jordan’s internal campaign gained momentum on Monday, Washington’s thousands of lobbyists raced to determine how a Jordan speakership might impact their clients’ bottom lines.
A Jordan speakership “will make it nearly impossible to move any sensible bipartisan legislation to curb big tech’s abuses of power,” said a veteran tech lobbyist who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “Instead, you’ll see more performative anger over petty issues, designed to redirect attention away from the things that could actually hold big tech accountable,” said the lobbyist.
Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage:
As chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, Jordan has accused tech companies of censoring conservatives on their platforms. But he has also criticized bipartisan efforts to use antitrust legislation to break up those same corporations.
For big tech companies, the prospect of bipartisan antitrust legislation passing in Congress would amount to a far more urgent threat to their businesses than a partisan content moderation bill.
Press representatives at Amazon, Apple, and Meta did not return requests for comment before publication. A Google spokesman declined to comment.
A Jordan speakership could amount to a stroke of good fortune for America’s tech giants, long under scrutiny from Congress and regulators over whether their vast corporate empires are illegal monopolies.
“When it comes to tech, Jordan has been primarily focused on speech and censorship issues, but he’s aimed most of his ire at the Biden administration’s pressure on companies – not the companies themselves,” said Adam Kovacevich, the CEO of the pro-tech lobbying group Chamber of Progress.
Apple Park is seen ahead of the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in Cupertino, California, on June 5, 2023.
Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images
A spokesman for Jordan disagreed with that assessment, noting the subpoenas Jordan has issued to Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft, accusing them of suppressing free speech.
“Chairman Jordan has issued over 20 subpoenas in his big tech investigation this Congress, interviewed over 20 current and former big tech employees, held Mark Zuckerberg accountable, and introduced legislation to stop big tech’s censorship of speech. His actions speak for themselves,” Russell Dye, communications director for the House Judiciary Committee, said Monday.
Jordan’s approach to big tech antitrust in Congress could also help to explain why lobbyists and PACs for major tech companies have contributed so regularly to his reelection campaigns.
Google’s PAC alone has given over $35,000 since 2012 to help fund Jordan’s successful campaigns for reelection.
Since 2020, Jordan’s campaign and affiliated political action committees have received over $15,000 from either PACs or individual lobbyists for Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook parent company Meta, according to lobbying contribution reports filed to Congress.
Kovacevich, of the Chamber of Progress, personally donated $1,000 to Jordan’s campaign in 2018, while he was working as a lobbyist for Google.
Not everyone in the Republican political ecosystem likes the idea of Jordan wielding the kind of power over tech legislation that he (or anyone else) would as House speaker.
“For years, Jordan has stymied conservatives’ efforts to rein in the tech companies,” said Schweppe, of the conservative American Principles Project.
His critique underscores deep divisions between Republicans over how Congress should approach tech regulation.
“Tech is a fissure in the GOP caucus, and Jordan is quite friendly to firms like Google and Apple even as some of his close allies are not,” said Matt Stoller, director of research at the progressive nonprofit American Economic Liberties Project.
“I guess it depends on how Jordan sees his role as Speaker,” said Stoller. “Is he building a consensus, or is he trying to run his own policy preferences?”