Big Tech’s Newest Foe in Congress Isn’t Afraid to Punch Up



Can the congressman who obtained on an entrenched machine fighter in Rhode Island also endure around Big Tech?

David Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat currently directing a House antitrust investigation into the market dominance of Facebook, Google, Amazon, along with Apple, is going to find out. But he’s experience going up against “hugely powerful, very well-financed, very well-connected interests, which is how he terms the technology market.

That description also fit a previous Cicilline competition, former Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, a charismatic and indestructible politician who conducted the city for more than two decades. Cicilline braved a run to unseat Cianci in 2002 at a time once the incumbent was fending off corruption charges but aim to winning a semester. By that year’s end, Cicilline was headed to the mayor’therefore workplace, Cianci to federal prison, and the seeds were planted for a bitter political rivalry that could last until Cianci died in 2016.

“If you can take on Buddy Cianci, you can certainly take on Mark Zuckerberg,” said Darrell West, a former political science professor at Brown University in Providence who currently directs the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation.

Cicilline is adept at social networking and pushes a Tesla, however until lately t been considered among the policy wonks in Congress. As lawyer and a law student, he didn’t invest much time studying the country ’s laws, first utilised to target railroad monopolies and oil barons.

Yet for it fits right into a fashion of siding with the underdog. For Cicilline, the national authorities ’s lack of scrutiny as Google gobbled up its electronic marketing opponents and Facebook acquired competitions such as Instagram and WhatsApp has enabled the tech giants to corner their economy, giving people little alternative but to agree to terms of service that exploit their personal data.

“A monopoly’so good for everyone, particularly for employees,” stated J. Michael Downey, a president of a Rhode Island public sector union who is enthusiastic about the congressman’s newest high-profile cause. “When he chooses on someone, I’ve watched him do things that were good with it. ”

Cicilline may be known by some younger Americans because of his championing of LGBT rights, also by elderly ones because of his pithy attacks on President Donald Trump through routine cable looks. He pushed early bucking Speaker Nancy Pelosi even though being part of her leadership team.

Early , Cicilline followed his father, that a Mafia lawyer, into criminal defense work. By needing police, he got adventures in carrying on the “ imbalance of power, ” he said. He served as a state representative before taking aim at Cianci, who had served two stretches. (The first finished  later Cianci attacked his estranged wife’s alleged lover with a lit cigarette and a fireplace log.)

Cicilline chucked himself within a anti-corruption reformer. At one fundraiser that was early, Cicilline said Cianci’s supporters jotted down the license plate numbers of attendees used the information intimidate and to recognize them.

“He didn’t take well to people demanding him” Cicilline told The Associated Press in an interview. He said the mayor also tried to dig up dirt around his own legal career.

Cianci later called Cicilline’s bidding a “political suicide assignment ” that succeeded only because a racketeering conviction forced Cianci out of office ahead of the election. Cicilline coasted to success and served eight years before being elected to Congress in 2010.

Cianci spent over four years in prison, subsequently returned to Providence to get a radio talk show host.

“I’m not a great enemy to have,” Cianci composed in his 2011 autobiography,” Politics and Pasta, where he took charge for tarnishing Cicilline’s reputation with on-air attacks. “But what might Cicilline do ? Put in jail? Been there, done that, and I brought home the T-shirt. ”

Silicon Valley’s tech giants may not make enemies. For now, Cicilline is looking for their collaboration and emphasizes the investigation is “a prosecution. ” But he can even wield subpoena power in case that strategy fail.

Cicilline currently runs on the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, a typically sleepy body he aims to beef up. Its investigation will explore whether these online platforms have been stifling competition, Assessing their particular services, or threatening the democratic procedure by virtue of their control over how people get information.

Given the prevalence of those tech services, Cicilline said it’s also significant to reveal Americans “this abuse of their data, the exception of competitions, why the marketing of one product over another without them knowing it, matters. ”

Tech firms so far are expressing their willingness to assist notify the research, but a few of their proxies complain that Cicilline’s approach looks similar to a series trial.

“For Cicilline and everyone else in that camp, it’so apparent these companies are guilty,” stated Rob Atkinson, president of the industry-backed Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and a veteran of Rhode Island politics. “The only real question for them is the thing to do about it. ”

Cicilline’s evolution on unchecked monopoly power followed the outcome of the following New England Democrat, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Back in mid-2016, Warren accused Google, Apple, and Amazon of utilizing their platforms to snuff out competition, threatening not just their opponents but flames.

A plan has simply rolled out to break up the firms. Cicilline calls a “last resort. ”

In 2017, Cicilline began dabbling in antitrust coverage as the ranking Democrat on the GOP-run antitrust subcommittee and pushed for a hearing on how Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods would influence both customers and employees. He consulted with groups like the Open Markets Institute, a think tank that advocates breaking up monopolies.

This year, Cicilline hired Lina Khan, a top attorney at Open Markets, to function as a subcommittee counselor. She declined comment.

Cicilline and his Republican colleagues in the subcommittee are standing around “that the most powerful companies we’ve noticed on the planet for at least 100 years,” said Barry Lynn, director of the Open Markets Institute.

West, the Brookings scholar, said Cicilline’s unlikely leadership on this cause–as the representative of a small state with no substantial tech industry –might work to his advantage as the wealthy tech companies emphasise their allies.

“He’s a free representative on this kind of topic,” West explained.

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