Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak, one of Utah’s chief lawyers, is close to securing a seat on the Federal Trade Commission. But, several groups on the political left and right are urging senators to vote against her nomination.
Holyoak was named the state’s top litigator by Attorney General Sean Reyes in 2020. In July, President Joe Biden nominated Holyoak to fill one of two open Republican commissioner seats on the FTC. If the Senate confirms her, she will serve a seven-year term as a commissioner.
Holyoak testified before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday morning. Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who was removed from that committee earlier this year for supporting a leadership challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, praised Holyoak while introducing her.
“She’ll be instrumental to the FTC’s responsibility of enforcing consumer protection and antitrust laws,” Lee said. “Her commitment to public service is truly commendable, and I have every confidence that she’ll be a successful commissioner.”
Holyoak highlighted her work in a lawsuit against Google for alleged unfair competition during her opening remarks. The search giant recently agreed to settle the case. Holyoak also warned of the potential risks of technology for children.
“We must continually strive to protect our children, especially as we encounter new challenges that can come from technological advancement. I believe the FTC is uniquely positioned to apply its statutory tools faithfully to confront these challenges, stop bad actors, and educate parents on how to protect their children,” Holyoak said.
During the hearing, Holyoak was asked about regulating artificial intelligence, which is being used more and more frequently for fraud and scams.
“Those are going to be used to produce even better phishing emails, even better text messages. It’s going to look so real that we won’t be able to tell what’s real and what’s not. It’s concerning,” Holyoak said.
Holyoak faced no objections on Wednesday, but her candidacy has encountered opposition from various groups, primarily due to her connections to large technology companies.
In July, a trio of conservative groups sent a letter to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the top Republican on the committee, opposing her nomination because of her previous work to block government attempts to rein in big tech companies.
A month later, a coalition of liberal organizations urged Senate Democrats to reject Holyoak’s nomination for many of the same reasons.
Holyoak is also facing questions about her ties to conservative law professor Joshua Wright, who has been accused of sexual harassment by several women who claim he forced them into having sex with him to advance their careers, HuffPost reported. The women’s rights group UltraViolet wants to know if Wright had any part in securing her nomination. Wright has resigned from his job at George Mason University’s law school and is suing two of his accusers for defamation, according to Above The Law.
Holyoak’s nomination won’t come up for a committee vote until sometime next month. Senators have until Monday to submit written questions, which Holyoak must answer by early October.