Commerce Committee Leaders Introduce Bill to Stop Ghost Votes from Impacting FTC Rules
Votes Cast by Commissioners are Currently Counted up to 60 Days after Departure
Dec 02 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) introduced legislation today that would stop votes cast by Federal Trade Commissioners (FTC) from being counted after the commissioners have left their post.
Politico reported earlier this month that former Commissioner Rohit Chopra cast 20 votes on his final day on the commission on pending motions before the FTC. According to the FTC’s interpretation of a rule, any of the five commissioners can introduce a motion for a vote. If no one responds, the motion fails after 30 days. However, if another commissioner seconds it, the motion can live on for another 30 days. This allows the votes of commissioners who have left the commission to remain active up to 60 days after their departure.
Therefore, this rule allows Chopra’s votes to be live for up to 60 days from his last day on October 8 despite him no longer being a commissioner.
“Your last day in office is the last day your vote should count – whether you serve on the school board or the FTC,” said Sen. Moran. “It’s absurd that votes cast by commissioners on outstanding issues can be counted up to 60 days past their departure. This needs to stop to protect the integrity of the commission and because it’s just plain common sense.”
“The FTC plays a critical role in ensuring there’s both consumer protection and fair competition in the marketplace—issues of great importance to many Americans,” said Sen. Thune. “As the agency continues its focus on these issues, it’s imperative that the FTC works to increase transparency and end its practice of using ‘zombie votes’ on matters before the agency.”
“It’s highly disturbing and legally dubious that the Federal Trade Commission would even use the votes of non-Commissioners in any matter before the Commission let alone as a means to press forward on controversial agenda items,” said Sen. Lee. “The practice of ‘zombie voting’ is unacceptable and must be stopped.”
“To a cast a vote in the Federal Trade Commission, you ought to actually be on the commission,” said Sen. Blunt. “This zombie voting completely ignores the important role of the Senate in the confirmation process, and it’s totally inconsistent with how federal agencies should operate. I’m proud to join my colleagues in supporting this bill to eliminate this unacceptable practice.”
“It defies logic that former Commissioners can keep ‘voting’ even after they’ve left the job," said Sen. Cruz. "These ‘zombie’ or ‘ghost’ votes undermine the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent process and are a gross abuse of power, and it is long past time we end the arcane rule that makes it possible. Sen. Moran’s bill does just that, and I am proud to cosponsor the FTC Integrity Act.”
“It seems like common sense, but once a term has expired, commissioners should no longer be able to cast a vote on an issue before the Federal Trade Commission,” said Sen. Lummis. “However, we have seen a strange phenomenon where an outgoing commissioner cast proxy votes on future issues that came before the Commission after his term has expired. This makes no sense. We don’t allow judges to rule on future decisions after they have left the bench, and we should not allow FTC commissioners to pre-cast their votes. I joined Senator Moran and my colleagues to make sure that only those who are actively sitting on the Commission are voting on matters before the FTC.”
The senators’ bill, the FTC Integrity Act, would amend the FTC Act to prohibit votes cast by former Commissioners from having any effect after they leave the Commission. This would retroactively apply to any vote taken after January 1, 2021.
Bill text can be found here.
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