Gigi Sohn, a consumer advocate who faced an unprecedented wave of personal attacks, has withdrawn her candidacy to join the Federal Communications Commission.
Sohn would have been both the first openly gay FCC commissioner and the rare commissioner who spent her career working in the nonprofit and advocacy realm, rather than the telecommunications industry that the FCC regulates.
Sohn announced her withdrawal Tuesday. The Washington Post first reported her withdrawal.
In a statement, Sohn said: “The unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks on my character and my career as an advocate for the public interest have taken an enormous toll on me and my family.”
“This means that your broadband will be more expensive for lack of competition, minority and underrepresented voices will be marginalized, and your private information will continue to be used and sold at the whim of your broadband provider,” Sohn added.
FCC nominations and confirmations are usually uneventful, but Sohn’s became a combative and drawn-out affair. A variety of groups targeted Sohn’s candidacy, often with little regard for what an FCC commissioner does. The American Accountability Foundation, a dark money group devoted to stopping Biden nominees from passing the Senate, spent at least $229,000 on Facebook ads opposing her nomination, an NBC News investigation found.
The FCC is run by a board of up to five commissioners. By custom, the president nominates three from their own party and two from the other party. President Joe Biden’s FCC, however, has been stuck at a 2-2 tie for most of his presidency.
Sohn briefly worked in government during the Obama administration as a counselor to then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. She was one of the leading voices behind the scenes of that administration’s net neutrality rules, which were overturned during the Trump administration.
Preston Padden, a longtime telecom lobbyist and founding executive of Fox Broadcasting Company, previously told NBC News that the smear campaign against Sohn was unprecedented.
“I started doing legal lobbying work in the industry in 1973,” Padden said. “And I’ve never seen anything like this smear campaign.”