The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), recently held a hearing entitled “Oversight of the Federal Trade Commission [(FTC)].” The stated purpose of the hearing was to examine, in the words of the Committee, “mismanagement of the FTC and its disregard for ethics and Congressional oversight.”
FTC Chair Lina Khan provided the Committee with prepared remarks but shortly thereafter publicly accused Rep. Jordan’s staff of engaging in a “campaign to intimidate and harass . . . career civil servants” of the FTC. Her accusations, contained in a letter dated July 26, 2023, came in response to Rep. Jordan’s efforts to interview various FTC staff members. Chair Khan describes these interview requests without providing details of the areas of inquiry as “extraordinary” and suggests that Rep. Jordan’s staff may have violated professional rules of conduct by directly contacting FTC staff members despite knowing that they were represented by counsel. In addition, Chair Khan asserts that Rep. Jordan’s staff may be obtaining information from a former FTC employee that might include the disclosure of non-public information, creating an apparent conflict of interest and a possible violation of rules of professional responsibility.
Not surprisingly, Rep. Jordan met fire with fire and publicly accused Chair Khan of setting forth “frivolous ethics allegations against Committee staff in an apparent effort to chill the Committee’s investigative work.” He then stated to Chair Khan, “The oversight you are blocking concerns your mistreatment and mismanagement of career FTC employees, and your unusual response to this oversight, forces us to examine whether you and your senior staff are attempting to obstruct the Committee’s oversight to prevent potential embarrassment.” Rep. Jordan concluded his response by demanding from the FTC the production of all documents and communications relating to the House Judiciary Committee’s oversight of “allegations of poor staff morale, mismanagement, and a toxic work environment within the FTC.”
It is unclear how or when this dispute might end or whether the work of the FTC might be impacted.
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