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Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan said her agency’s job is to go after the “mob bosses” of the private sector at an event this week. Khan’s latest smear is an attempt to distract from her own pattern of deception and abuses of power as FTC chair. Khan is the real mob boss, not the industries she targets. 
President Biden installed Khan as FTC chair because of her well-documented animus toward free enterprise. Khan became famous in progressive circles for a law school paper arguing that bureaucrats should dismantle Amazon because their prices are too low. After graduating law school, Khan worked for the Open Markets Institute, a far-left group that advocates for central planning. Khan has blasted the free market as a product of “metaphysical forces” and said that antitrust law should direct “economic outcomes.” 
Khan has demonstrated a pattern of deception throughout her career that would make Don Corleone himself blush. Before ascending to the FTC, Khan falsely claimed the title of “counsel” as a Capitol Hill staffer without being a practicing attorney. Khan has served at least part of her tenure as FTC chair with a delinquent law license. In multiple oversight hearings, Khan has consistently refused to give lawmakers straight answers on what her agency is working on. 
Khan has also flouted ethics guidance, overruling a career ethics official that recommended her recusal in the FTC’s lawsuit to block Meta from acquiring virtual reality startup Within. The ethics official told Khan that her public statements on Meta disqualified her from being a neutral arbiter. Khan refused to recuse despite telling lawmakers on more than one occasion that she abides by ethics recommendations. 
As chair, Khan has worked to transform the FTC from a law enforcement agency to a super-regulator of the entire economy. Immediately after taking the oath of office, Khan moved to adopt “omnibus resolutions” that gave her ultimate power over FTC investigations, subpoena power, and merger reviews. Khan shredded long held limits on agency power, notably untethering the FTC’s “unfair methods of competition” authority from antitrust enforcement, allowing Khan to launch expansive fishing expeditions at taxpayer expense. Khan sent over 200 letters to companies with pending mergers warning them to proceed “at their own risk” if the FTC did not bother to review the deal in the timeline required by law. 
Khan’s initial power grabs set the stage for a number of quixotic antitrust crusades that have failed in court. Khan sued Amazon for charging high prices, an argument divorced from reality that would puzzle her law school self. Khan has pursued a lawsuit against Meta that would force the company to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp, even though an Obama-appointed judge tossed a previous version of the case out of court for being meritless. 
Khan knows the law isn’t on her side, so she uses force. Some staff have described Khan as “abusive” and a “tyrant.” A recent blockbuster report from the House Judiciary Committee based on interviews with career FTC staff paints a chilling portrait of Khan’s mob-like tactics running the FTC. 
Khan's fear-based leadership style has intimidated staff, even those who agree with her radical antitrust views. According to the report, Khan has instilled a “culture of fear” in the agency, where even members of her senior leadership team walk on eggshells to avoid displeasing her. As one manager wrote to Khan: “I keep hearing we can’t say things or recommend outcomes because it will upset you…the people who communicate with you most are afraid to tell you anything you don’t want to hear.” Khan has also “displayed a willingness to see FTC staff villainized publicly” for her own failures, with one manager telling Khan to “stop contributing to an external narrative that denigrates staff.” 
Staff that dare to raise concerns to their superiors are told to stop complaining. 
FTC staff morale has plummeted since Khan assumed power. Across all metrics in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the FTC has fallen from one of the best places to work in government to one of the worst. In 2020, 83 percent of FTC staff had a high level of respect for leadership, a number that stands at 53 percent today. Career staff and agency experts are fleeing for the exits at a rate not seen in decades. 
What sins did America’s crown jewel companies commit to deserve Khan’s “mob boss” smear? Creating jobs and economic value? Competing aggressively to deliver the best products and services to consumers, for free in some cases? Maybe Khan thinks they are mob bosses because they are pushing back against her overreach instead of taking it lying down. 
Like any good mob boss, Khan uses her ruthlessly-obtained power to torment her underlings and shake down businesses. Instead of smearing American companies as mob bosses, maybe Don Khan should take a look in the mirror.
Tom Hebert is the Director of Competition and Regulatory Policy at Americans for Tax Reform and executive director of the Open Competition Center.

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