President Biden’s pick to serve as a telecommunications regulator is withdrawing her nomination to the Federal Communications Commission, following a bitter 16-month lobbying battle that blocked her appointment and opened her up to relentless personal attacks.
Gigi Sohn, a longtime public interest advocate and former Democratic FCC official who was first nominated by the White House in October 2021, said her decision to withdraw follows “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks” seeded by cable and media industry lobbyists. The opposition to Sohn catapulted the relatively low-profile position to the center of an unprecedented fight, which involved three Senate confirmation hearings, a series of ads and a billboard criticizing Sohn as “extreme” and “partisan” amid dissection of her social media posts.
Sohn’s decision to bow out leaves the Biden administration’s ambitious internet agenda mired in limbo, continuing more than two years of a deadlock at the FCC. Biden rode to office on promises to reverse a wave of deregulation during the Trump administration and commitments to restore Obama-era net neutrality protections. But the FCC remains stalled on these commitments amid a 2-2 split, imperiling the administration’s plans.
Biden’s internet promises in limbo amid long battle over FCC nominee
“It is a sad day for our country and our democracy when dominant industries, with assistance from unlimited dark money, get to choose their regulators,” Sohn said in a statement shared exclusively with The Washington Post. “And with the help of their friends in the Senate, the powerful cable and media companies have done just that.”
The collapse of Sohn’s nomination is a discouraging signal of the White House’s political power. The administration was unable to unify Democrats behind Sohn’s nomination in a narrowly divided Senate. Shortly before Sohn announced her decision to withdrawal, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) dealt a critical blow, announcing he would vote against her, accusing her of holding “partisan alliances with far-left groups.”
“Especially now, the FCC must remain above the toxic partisanship that Americans are sick and tired of, and Ms. Sohn has clearly shown she is not the person to do that,” Manchin said in a statement.
Conservative groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking Sohn as partisan and extreme, leading a campaign focused in states of several moderate Democrats, who were already on the fence on Sohn’s nomination. “Gigi Sohn is too extreme for the FCC,” read one billboard in Las Vegas, plastered with Sohn’s face and a link to a website for the American Accountability Foundation, a group that has opposed Biden’s nominees. The AAF and another conservative nonprofit, the Center for a Free Economy, placed more than $200,000 in Facebook ads opposing Sohn.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Tuesday’s briefing that the White House did not have any updates at this time on future nominees.
“We appreciate Gigi Sohn’s candidacy for this important role,” Jean-Pierre said. “She would have brought tremendous intellect and experience, which is why the president nominated her in the first place.”
This is a breaking story and will be updated.