POLITICO West Wing Playbook: Bruce Reed, summoner of the techlash

September 14, 2021 Media

In March of 2018, longtime Democratic operative BRUCE REED visited Facebook headquarters to sit down with COO SHERYL SANDBERG and ELLIOT SCHRAGE, the company’s policy chief at the time.

The meeting was contentious.

Reed, whose involvement in the meeting was not previously reported, came to discuss privacy and protecting children with prominent tech critic JIM STEYER, the founder of Common Sense Media, where Reed was a senior adviser. In an interview, Steyer said that the pair saw Facebook CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG briefly, “but we really met with Sheryl and Elliot, the people who ran Facebook, right?”

Now Reed serves as President JOE BIDEN’s top policy adviser, and the experience he gained working on the CCPA and meeting with tech leaders like Sandberg is informing the federal approach to the social media behemoths. Starting during the transition last fall, Reed has taken the lead on Biden’s tech policy personnel choices.

To the pleasant surprise of many tough-on-tech left-wing activists, the Biden administration has chosen a slate of adversarial appointees, including LINA KHAN as FTC Commissioner, JONATHAN KANTER for the assistant attorney general for antitrust, and TIM WU on the National Economic Council.

“I think that the roster of appointments in this space were initially what we’d have expected from Warren or Sanders’ presidency,” said SARAH MILLER, the executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project and a proponent of rigorous antitrust enforcement on tech companies.

“Yea, it’s a surprise,” said MATT STOLLER, a fellow antitrust advocate and author of Goliath, a book that makes the case for going after monopoly power.