A new poll by Data for Progress shows that Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a key opponent of tech antitrust reforms, is wildly out of step with constituents in her Silicon Valley district. The poll, which was provided exclusively to The Intercept, shows that despite living in the belly of the tech beast, voters in California’s 19th Congressional District are as worried about tech giants’ economic power and lack of accountability as the rest of Americans.
Among a number of eye-catching findings, the poll’s 610 respondents — who were weighted to match the demographics of likely voters in the district — supported the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which is picking up momentum on Capitol Hill, by a 46-point margin, 58 percent to 12 percent, after being presented with arguments for and against the bill. Pollsters also found that two-thirds of respondents agreed with the argument that the economic power of companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google is a problem for the U.S. economy.
The findings call Lofgren’s continued opposition to measures that would increase competition in the technology sector into question. With liberals and conservatives both becoming increasingly focused on addressing the power large technology companies hold, a rare bipartisan effort to increase competition in the sector has been gaining traction in both chambers of Congress. Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which seeks to prevent tech companies from using their platforms to give preferential treatment to their own products, with a vote of a 16-6. (Five Republicans voted with the 11 Democratic members of the committee.)
A similar bill advanced through the House Judiciary Committee last year as part of a package of antitrust bills, but neither chamber has brought the legislation to the floor for a final vote. In June, Lofgren voted against passage of the House version alongside her colleagues in California’s Democratic caucus, Reps. Eric Swalwell and Lou Correa, and Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona. Had Republican Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Burgess Owens of Utah not bucked the rest of their party to vote in favor, the House bill would have likely died in committee.
“Some of the ‘tech antitrust’ bills in Congress are poorly-drafted, extreme, and go beyond legitimate, real-world concerns,” Lofgren wrote in a statement to The Intercept. “They target four tech companies, but don’t actually prevent the disinformation, privacy violations, and abusive consumer manipulation by algorithms that so many of my constituents and I decry.”
As an alternative, Lofgren pointed to the Online Privacy Act, a bill she introduced with California Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo, which “would actually be effective in dealing with problems in the tech sector by preventing the abusive collection and retention of personal information,” according to Lofgren. “If companies can’t collect data, they can’t use that data to manipulate Americans for profit.” While the Online Privacy Act would restrict data brokering, it would play no role in antitrust regulation of tech.
The poll’s findings affirm that Lofgren’s constituents disproportionately favor the reforms she voted against. Data for Progress also found that Lofgren’s constituents feel uneasy about members of Congress who have such substantial links to the industry opposing reform. A staggering 89 percent of respondents told Data for Progress that they are somewhat or very concerned about members of Congress with personal or financial ties to technology corporations undermining reform efforts. Furthermore, 73 percent of constituents surveyed said that they would be more likely to support the reelection of their member of Congress should they support efforts to hold large technology companies accountable. While Lofgren holds a deep blue Congressional seat and is not at risk of losing it in a general election, her stance opens avenues of criticism for a potential primary challenger who is more aligned with her constituents on antitrust issues.
Lofgren tends to frame her opposition to measures that threaten America’s technology titans as protecting consumers, but as a number of other outlets have reported, her personal and financial ties to the industry run deep. Her office has served as a revolving door for operatives in the Big Tech space: Lofgren alumni have gone on to work at Apple, technology trade associations, and tech-friendly think tanks. Her daughter serves as corporate counsel to Google, one of the companies that stands to face the most scrutiny should the bill pass.
“I am proud of my adult daughter’s professional accomplishments,” Lofgren told The Intercept. “Over the years, my daughter has worked as a lawyer in private practice as well as for tech firms in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Hers is not an executive position.”
In total, Lofgren has received nearly $1 million dollars in campaign contributions from tech-affiliated individuals and PACs.