President Joe Biden will renominate former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) counsel Gigi Sohn to be an FCC member, two White House officials told The Wall Street Journal, despite her initial nomination’s failure amid controversy over her previous activism.
Biden originally nominated Sohn for the role in October 2021, but the Senate never held a confirmation vote for her after two nomination hearings as Senate Commerce Committee members scrutinized her history as a director at the now-defunct online streaming service Locast, which retransmitted local television broadcasts. Biden plans to announce renomination later in January along with a slew of other renominations, according to the WSJ.
I’m so deeply honored to be nominated by @POTUS to serve as @FCC Commissioner. If confirmed, I’ll work to fulfill his goal of ensuring that every household in the US has robust broadband Internet. Congratulations to @JRosenworcel on her ascension to Chair – well deserved!
— Gigi Sohn (@gigibsohn) October 26, 2021
U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton ruled that Locast had violated copyright law after broadcasters sued the company. He ordered Locast to shut down in September 2021, and it agreed to pay $32 million in settlement.
Sohn made a confidential deal with broadcasters one day after her 2021 nomination that reduces Locast’s damages payments to around $700,000 and released individuals from liability in the case, Bloomberg Law reported. Sohn vowed to recuse herself from some broadcast issues after the deal was publicized.
Sohn prioritized left-wing net neutrality activist groups when she was an Obama administration FCC counsel, especially advocating for working with them as the groups sought to have their comments posted and counted on the FCC’s forum for the net neutrality debate, the Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported. She personally corresponded with a co-founder of Fight For the Future (FFTF), which helped organize protests against former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai repealing net neutrality rules.
Some such protests involved derogatory comments towards Pai and his family, but FFTF condemned harassing him. Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn claimed in a February 2022 Senate Commerce Committee hearing that activists had incited violence and harassment against elected officials.
Senate Commerce Committee Democrats including Montana’s Jon Tester did not agree to support Sohn until several meetings occurred, and former Democratic North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp vocally opposed her nomination.
Biden also plans to renominate Phil Washington for Federal Aviation Administration administrator, Danny Werfel for Internal Revenue Service commissioner and Dilawar Syed for Small Business Administration deputy administrator, the White House officials told the WSJ.
Sohn and the White House did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.