Controversial Biden FCC nominee faces further scrutiny, uphill confirmation battle

Gigi Sohn, President Joe Biden’s nominee to fill the final vacancy on the Federal Communications Commission, has faced a rocky confirmation battle, but soon could be considered by the full U.S. Senate.

Sohn’s nomination in February faced headwinds after it was discovered that she had failed to inform the U.S. Senate’s Commerce Committee of past business dealings, including her board membership of a nonprofit that faced up to $32 million in damages. The less-than-$1 million it ultimately only paid resulted from a settlement that was reached one day after Sohn was nominated by Biden. 

Sohn also was involved in the posting of billboard ads in 2019 which decried Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., as “corrupt” for not supporting net neutrality regulations.

Still, the Biden administration has continued to push for Sohn to fill the vacancy.

Opposition from Mexican American Women’s National Association

Sohn is now facing opposition from the Mexican American Women’s National Association. Amy Hinojosa, the group’s president and CEO, recently published an op-ed on NJ.com arguing that Sohn’s nomination ought to be opposed.

Hinojosa points to Sohn’s likely recusal from a wide array of issues should she be nominated to the FCC. Sohn said she would recuse herself on certain matters as a way to assuage concerns that she would not be a fair and independent voice on the commission.

Hinojosa hopes that the FCC can advance policies that promote minority participation in the broadcasting industry, such as renewing the Minority Tax Certificate. 

“These hopes suffered a setback when Gigi Sohn, Biden’s nominee for the FCC’s pivotal fifth seat, needed to give Democrats a 3-2 working majority at the commission, announced late last month that she would voluntarily sideline herself on a range of vitally essential broadcasting debates if confirmed by the Senate,” Hinojosa wrote. “Her selection effectively neuters the FCC on broadcast issues at this most critical time for minority broadcasters.”

Hinojosa also took issue with Sohn’s involvement in Locast, a nonprofit streaming platform a federal court said was illegally rebroadcasting licensed content. If Sohn engages in lax enforcement of licensing laws, Hinojosa argues that would disadvantage Latino content creators, citing Univision’s merger with Televisa and the revenue that such a merger would deliver to Latino content creators so long as licensing laws were enforced.

Senate leadership is hoping to hold a confirmation vote before the week of April 11.

Joe Pitts

Joe Pitts is a student at Arizona State University and the program director for Business Ballot; executive director for the Arizona Junior Fellows program. You can reach him at [email protected]

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