Others say efforts to change how the government polices competition are moving too fast. Daniel Crane, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, has written a draft paper arguing that the movement to change the law “has emerged out of virtually nowhere to claim a position at the bargaining table over antitrust reform and the future of the antitrust enterprise.” Thibault Schrepel, a professor at the Utrecht University School of Law, has said human flourishing “should be enhanced by applying reason to antitrust law; not fears, not feelings, not sentiments, not intuitions.”
The tech giants back many similar arguments. Both Facebook and Google have financed a slate of groups that support current antitrust law.
Mr. Lambert and Mr. Schrepel are both affiliated with the International Center for Law & Economics, a research nonprofit that has received financing from Google, Amazon and Facebook, among other major companies. Geoffrey Manne, the center’s leader, said that its affiliates were not paid but that some “have received honoraria for conferences or travel assistance, or grants to support their work, as have some nonaffiliates.” Mr. Lambert also sits on the organization’s board — a position for which, he says, he is not paid.
On Capitol Hill, Senator Lee has led the defense of existing antitrust law.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, Mr. Lee has held a series of hearings over the last two years where he or his witnesses have questioned the calls to rethink antitrust law. He was also quick to question the purpose of the House Judiciary Committee’s inquiry into the market power of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, accusing the panel of trying to perform a role best left to law enforcement agencies.
Mr. Lee has been accused of letting money influence his views on the subject. The Google Transparency Project, a nonprofit that tracks the tech giant’s connections to government, recently raised questions about whether he was influenced by donations from Google and its allies.
Mr. Lee dismissed those accusations as “paranoid fantasy.” (The Google Transparency Project has itself received funding from Oracle, a Google competitor.)
Recently, the antitrust holdouts have found a new ally in the industrialist Charles Koch. The Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity ran digital ads this year urging senators and attorneys general to stick to the current approach to antitrust.