Even by Washington’s appallingly low ethics standards, Gigi Sohn gives “pay to play” a bad name—even though she would surely deny that was, for all practical purposes, what she was doing.
At a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last week, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called out President Joe Biden’s nominee to the Federal Communications Commission for giving thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to a dozen Democratic senators—at least one of them a member of the very committee weighing her nomination over the past 15 months.
“Do you believe it was poor judgment to give 12 separate political contributions to Democrat senators while your nomination was pending?” Cruz asked pointedly at the Feb. 14 hearing.
Not only did she deny it represented poor judgment, Sohn, a leftist who has supported and worked with several radical activist groups, defended the donations as her right as “a citizen” to participate in politics.
Cruz noted that he had had his staff research the issue of presidential nominees for posts requiring Senate confirmation making campaign contributions to senators during the confirmation process, and they were unable to find records of any prior instances of it.
The nomination of Sohn, who served as a senior counsel to the Obama-era chairman of the FCC, puts the recipient Democratic senators in the untenable position of having to vote on her nomination in the committee and/or to ratify it on the Senate floor.
At a bare minimum, those senators should recuse themselves and not vote, lest it appear that their support is for sale. (Perhaps she thought it was.) But their recusals would almost certainly doom the Sohn nomination, since it’s unlikely she would get any Senate Republican votes to make up for those abstentions.
Beyond the obvious conflict of interest Sohn has created for the senators to whom she donated campaign cash, there are other compelling reasons to deep-six her nomination.
Cruz noted that she has called Fox News “dangerous to our democracy” and has urged the FCC to revoke licenses to the conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group media conglomerate.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,, urged senators to vote against her, calling the nominee a “liberal activist who said the FCC should consider revoking the broadcast licenses of news stations she disagreed with.” The Senate minority leader added: “The country needs our FCC commissioners to be thoughtful, sober, nonpartisan referees. Not activists and ideologues who want to bend our airwaves to their agenda.”
If that wasn’t disqualifying enough, Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, called out Sohn for retweeting in June 2020 a black actress’ disparaging, racist remark about former President Donald Trump. (“Your raggedy white supremacist president and his cowardly enablers would rather kill everybody than stop killing black people.”) Her own racist tweet in September 2018 castigated then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (“Angry white man. Not a good look, Judge Kavanaugh.”)
Sohn also has a sordid history of anti-police rhetoric, with Sen. Ted Budd, R-N.C., noting at last week’s hearing that she had retweeted that federal law enforcement officials responding to 2020 riots across the country as “armed goons in riot gear with tear gas.”
Given the nominee’s mountain of ethical and political baggage, it’s mystifying that Biden is so adamantly committed to her nomination, despite it now being in its third iteration after twice stalling in committee.
Sohn’s nomination originated on Oct. 26, 2021, and was first aired on Dec. 1 of that year in committee, where it died. The nomination was returned on Jan. 3, 2022, to Biden, who turned right around and renominated her the very next day.
Her second confirmation hearing took place on Feb. 9, 2022. On March 3, the Commerce Committee—whose membership at the time was evenly divided between the two parties, just like the full Senate, which then was split 50-50—deadlocked on the Sohn nomination on a straight party-line vote. Senate Democrats subsequently failed in their efforts to force the nomination out of committee via a discharge petition.
On Jan. 3, upon the adjournment of the 117th Congress, Sohn’s nomination was again returned to the White House. She was then renominated a third time to the post. That brings it back full circle to the Commerce Committee’s third hearing on her nomination on Feb. 14, which Cruz called “highly unusual.”
The Senate Commerce Committee should spare Democratic senators who took Sohn’s campaign cash the obvious appearance of a conflict of interest by refusing to give the nomination any further consideration and just send it back to Biden’s desk marked “DOA.”
Better yet, the president should withdraw this disgraceful nomination himself. But given Biden’s track record of choosing and standing by grossly unqualified and/or incompetent left-wing nominees (e.g., Pete Buttigieg and Alejandro Mayorkas, to say nothing of his choices for vice president and press secretary), we’re under no illusion that he would nominate someone better.
Originally published at WashingtonTimes.com
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