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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Anti-Trust

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The chair of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday asked a regulator to investigate whether Meta Platforms' Facebook misled its advertising customers and the public about the reach of its advertisements.

In a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan seen by Reuters, Senator Maria Cantwell said "evidence suggests that Facebook may have deceived its advertising customers about its brand safety and advertising metrics" and "may have engaged in deceptive practices."

Meta and the FTC did not immediately comment.

Cantwell added that "public information suggests that Facebook’s potential misrepresentations about brand safety and advertising metrics may be unfair, as well as deceptive."

She said "a thorough investigation by the Commission and other enforcement agencies is paramount, not only because Facebook and its executives may have violated federal law, but because members of the public and businesses are entitled to know the facts regarding Facebook’s conduct."

Cantwell cited a 2020 Senate report that Facebook reportedly controlled approximately 74 percent of the social media market.

In October, Senator Richard Blumenthal said both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FTC should investigate claims made by a Facebook whistleblower that the company knew its apps were harming the mental health of some young users.

The FTC has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook that urged a court to demand that the company sell two big subsidiaries.

The FTC's case against Facebook represents one of the biggest challenges the government has brought against a tech company in decades, and is being closely watched as Washington aims to tackle Big Tech's extensive market power.

The FTC originally sued Facebook during the Trump administration, and its complaint was rejected by the court. It filed an amended complaint in August that Facebook has asked be tossed out.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Chris Sanders; editing by Diane Craft and Grant McCool)

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T-Mobile spent $195,000 at Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel — which Trump still owns and profits from — after announcing a planned $26 billion merger with Sprint that requires federal approval, the Washington Post reports.

It’s the latest example of how Trump is able to unethically make “a lot of money” from his presidency, as House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings put in a recent interview.

T-Mobile disclosed the amount in a letter responding to Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who had inquired about a previous Post report on T-Mobile executives suddenly booking a lot of business at Trump’s hotel the day after the merger was announced.

The spending patterns are striking. Before announcing the planned deal in April 2018, T-Mobile executives had only ever gone to the Trump hotel twice, in 2017. After the deal was announced, records showed they went to the hotel at least 52 times.

While previous reports were only able to estimate how much money the executives might have spent at the hotel, T-Mobile has now confirmed it to Congress. And of the $1.4 million that T-Mobile spent on hotels in the Washington, D.C.-area over the last year, 14 percent was spent at Trump’s hotel.

The proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint is valued at $26 billion, and the combined companies would have over 127 million customers. If the merger is approved, it would reduce competition within the industry by reducing the number of major wireless competitors from four to three.

The exchange of funds from T-Mobile to Trump highlights once again that Trump opened the door to outright bribery and other conflicts of interest when he broke from a bipartisan presidential tradition by deciding not to divest from his companies, notably the Trump Organization and his hotels.

Some of the money spent at the Trump Hotel will inevitably get kicked back into Trump’s own pockets — and with this corruption pipeline wide open, the Trump hotel has raised rates above other D.C. hotels in the same class and become a go-to for those like T-Mobile who might want to influence the administration.

The Republican National Committee and House and Senate campaigns for Republicans have also spent donor money to host parties and fundraisers at the hotels.

Trump has already made over $1 million from his own 2020 campaign using this method.

Companies like T-Mobile, as well as foreign governments and entities with business before the American government, can spend lavishly at Trump’s properties. Meanwhile, Trump and his appointees are making major decisions involving those same companies. Should Trump’s administration choose to approve the merger, the money spent at his hotel would produce a huge return on investment for T-Mobile.

Trump’s corruption allowed T-Mobile to make a simple calculation: Spend a few thousand that finds its way into Trump’s pocket, and help convince his administration to approve a deal that could earn the company billions.

Thanks to Trump, corrupt payoffs and bribery are becoming part of the price of doing business with the American government.

Published with permission of The American Independent.