House Panel Raises Concerns Over Biden’s Task Force on Corporate Pricing

The Republican-led House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into President Joe Biden’s newly established task force on corporate pricing practices, alleging it could be exploited as a “political tool,” according to a letter obtained by CNBC.

In the letter dated Tuesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability demanded that Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan turn over all FTC records related to the creation of the Strike Force on Unfair and Illegal Pricing, which Biden launched in March to address concerns about corporate pricing practices.

“The timing of the Strike Force announcement, in an election year, raises the likelihood that political motivations rather than the interests of American consumers drove the action,” wrote House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., in the letter. “To use the FTC as a tool in a political witch hunt against U.S. businesses would be a shocking misuse of the agency’s power.”

The Strike Force is jointly led by the FTC and the Department of Justice, key players in the Biden administration’s regulatory agenda in recent years.

Khan and DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter have taken action against over 50 proposed deals in sectors like tech, energy, and grocery since assuming their posts in 2021, achieving both successes and setbacks.

In the letter, Comer also requested all documents related to the FTC’s 2021 investigation into alleged gasoline price fixing, along with proposed mergers involving major grocers Kroger and Albertsons.

“This FTC — which is supposed to be an independent agency — has a history of doing President Biden’s partisan bidding,” Comer stated in the letter.

The FTC declined to comment.

The House panel’s probe is the latest in a series of investigations into the FTC and Khan, who has become a major target for Republicans amid heightened antitrust enforcement under her leadership.

Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign partly depends on convincing voters that his economic agenda has benefited their wallets. Despite a modest economic recovery since the Covid pandemic, inflation has remained persistent, and consumers have not seen significant relief in their daily living costs.

Biden has consistently accused large corporations of keeping prices artificially high, despite improvements in supply chains and producer costs since the pandemic.

Comer suggested in the letter that “this pattern” of blaming corporate pricing practices for inflation “signals that the new FTC-DOJ Strike Force will be used as a political tool.”

Biden’s argument that companies are responsible for high prices, not his economic agenda, may be resonating with voters. A March survey indicated that respondents attributed recent price increases more to “large corporations taking advantage of inflation” than to Democratic policies.