: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Joel Sage on Flickr

Gigi Sohn

  • Served in President Bill Clinton's' administration
  • Was a project specialist for the Ford Foundation
  • Was a special counsel for the FCC
  • Worked for George Soros’s Open Society Foundations
  • Has been outspoken in her contempt for conservatives
  • Was nominated for FCC Commissioner by President Biden in 2021

Background

Gigi Sohn was born in Silver Spring, Maryland on August 2, 1961. After graduating from Boston University in 1983 with a B.S. in Broadcasting and Film, she went on to earn a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School in 1986.

From 1988-1999, Sohn worked as both a Deputy Director and Executive Director of the Media Access Project, (MAP), a now-defunct, left-leaning telecommunications nonprofit organization which was established in the early 1970s. Funded in part by the Open Society Foundations of leftist billionaire George Soros, MAP advocated for the so-called Fairness Doctrine — a 1949 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance, and to do so in a manner that reflected differing viewpoints.

Ties to Bill Clinton

In 1997, President Bill Clinton selected Sohn to serve on the Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters.

Project Specialist for the Ford Foundation

From 1999-2001, Sohn was a Project Specialist for the Ford Foundation, which has an extensive history of advancing leftist causes like population control, unfettered abortion rights, the financing of violent leftwing extremist groups, and the promotion of anti-American and anti-Israeli narratives.

President & CEO of Public Knowledge (Supporting “Net Neutrality” and Opposing “Misinformation”)

From 2001-2013, Sohn served as the President and CEO of Public Knowledge in Washington, D.C. According to InfluenceWatch.org, Public Knowledge: (a) is a “technology advocacy group focused on intellectual property law, competition, and choice in the digital marketplace and an open standards/end-to-end internet”; (b) is “a staunch supporter of expanded regulations on internet businesses and technology companies, backing so-called ‘net neutrality’ regulations against internet service providers and supporting antitrust action against other technology companies”; and (c) “aggressively targeted dissenting ‘misinformation’ on the newly emerged coronavirus in 2020,” explaining that “an ‘infodemic’ was ‘a dangerous onslaught of misunderstandings, inaccurate data, and lies about the coronavirus spread rapidly online.”

Adoption & Same-Sex Marriage

Sohn adopted a daughter in 2004, and in 2007 she married Lara Ballard, who at the time was an attorney with the U.S. State Department.

Working for the FCC

Sohn joined the FCC in 2013 as Special Counsel for External Affairs, and she later (May 2015 to December 2016) served as the Commission’s Counselor to the Chairman. In this role, she worked closely as an advisor to then-FCC head Tom Wheeler, who had been appointed to that position by President Barack Obama.

Sohn left the FCC in December 2016, ahead of the incoming Trump administration.

Georgetown Law Institute

In April 2017, Sohn became a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy.

Working for George Soros’s Open Society Foundations & the Mozilla Foundation

From 2017-2018, Sohn worked as a Leadership in Government Fellow for George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Also during that period, she was a Technology Policy Fellow at the Mozilla Foundation (MF). A left-wing nonprofit based in Silicon Valley, MF is led by a CEO who has called for more aggressive action and censorship against “bad actors” like Donald Trump who exploit the “internet to foment violence and hate, and reinforce white supremacy.”

Benton Institute for Broadband and Society

In October 2017, Sohn also became a Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society —  a foundation that “works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest and enhance our democracy.”

Supporting Net Neutrality

While she was out of the public sector, Sohn was a regular critic of the Trump administration, particularly on matters related to FCC policy. She frequently authored commentary in support of net neutrality and more government regulation of the Internet. Some examples:

Contempt for Republicans & Conservatives

While the FCC claims to be an independent agency without any political agendas, Sohn has long been an open leftist. Throughout the four years of the Trump presidency (2017-2021), Sohn often tweeted Democrat talking points while condemning Republicans, conservatives, and non-leftist media outlets. Some examples:

  • “Angry white man. Not a good look, Judge Kavanaugh(September 27, 2018)
  • “For years, @Twitter & @Facebook tried to appease @realDonaldTrump & other right-wing extremists on phony claims of conservative bias. It didn’t work.” (May 29, 2020)
  • “For all my concerns about #Facebook, I believe that Fox News has had the most negative impact on our democracy. It’s state-sponsored propaganda, with few if any opposing viewpoints. Where’s the hearing about that?” (October 28, 2020)
  • “This is an outrage. Republicans know that the only way they can win is to suppress the vote….This is a good time 2 post this @TheAtlantic piece, which explains why GOP works so hard 2 pack the courts – it knows that it is the only bulwark against a country that is changing demographically, ideologically & politically. It’s what’s happening here.” (October 31, 2020)
  • “So do you still want me to believe that social media is more dangerous to our democracy than Fox News?” (November 6, 2020)
  • “your raggedy white supremacist president [Trump] and his cowardly enablers would rather kill everybody than stop killing black people.” (retweet from June 2020)

In 2018, Sohn called on the FCC to investigate whether the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a conservative-run network of local television stations, should be permitted to hold a broadcast license. In August of that year, for instance, she tweeted: “I say that @FCC should look at whether Sinclair is qualified to be a broadcast licensee at all.”

Supporting Black Lives Matter & Portraying America As a Racist Nation

On July 5, 2020 — at the height of that summer’s violent Black Lives Matter (BLM) riots – Sohn used her podcast to praise the BLM-supporting group Color Of Change as “one of a number of newer tech-savvy civil rights organizations” that she “admire[d]” and “love[d] supporting” because of the “wonderful” and considerable “progress” its members were making in fields related to the “headlines of everything that is important right now.” “It’s critical to support groups like Color Of Change, the NAACP Legal and Defense Fund, the ACLU, and others who’re helping to protect us all from these ubiquitous spying technologies,” she stated. The previous month, in June 2020, Color Of Change had issued a press release titled Minneapolis‘ Commitment to Disband Police: A Historic Moment for Our Country, which called policing “a violent institution that must end” and lauded the city for its efforts to “disband police.”

Biden Nominates Sohn for FCC Commissioner

On October 26, 2021, the White House announced that Sohn would be nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as Commissioner of the FCC.[1]  If her nomination were to be approved by the Senate, Sohn would become the first openly gay person to hold that position.

The Biden administration identified Sohn as one of the country’s “leading public advocates for open, affordable, and democratic communications networks.” The Victory Institute — a “national organization dedicated to elevating openly LGBTQ leaders who can further equality at all levels of government” — celebrated Sohn’s nomination. Victory Institute Executive Director Ruben Gonzales, for instance, praised the Biden administration for “building the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration ever and [for] proving they can do so while appointing the best possible people for each position.”

Controversial Secret Settlement in Copyright Dispute Involving Locast

During a February 9, 2022 Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Sohn’s nomination, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) drew attention to the suspicious timing of a favorable 2021 settlement which had been made behind closed doors between TV broadcasters and Locast, a nonprofit where Sohn at that time was a board member/commisssioner. The deal, which reduced a settlement in a copyright dispute with Locast from $32 million to $700,000, was agreed upon just one day after the Biden administration had announced its intent to nominate Sohn to the FCC. Said Cruz:

“I’ve got to say, Ms. Sohn, the timing of the settlement stinks,”

“The Biden administration announced their intent to nominate you on October 26, 2021. A confidential settlement agreement was signed on October 27, 2021, the day after the intent to nominate. Your actual nomination was made on October 28, the next day, and on that day a public settlement was filed.”

“The public settlement claimed that the plaintiffs, ABC, NBC, CBS, were going to be paid $32 million, that they had $32 million in damages. What nobody knew at the time is that the secret settlement cut $32 million down to $700,000, that’s two cents on the dollar. I’ve litigated a lot of cases, I’ve settled a lot of cases, I don’t recall ever settling a case that my clients had won, that we had a victorious judgement, for two cents on the dollar. But you know what? I’ve never had a case against someone who was about to be the regulator of my industry. On the face of that, that’s a sweetheart deal.”

“I’ve been in the Senate ten years now. I’ve never seen a nominee, for any regulatory board, who at the exact moment of her nomination, saw the companies that would be regulated by her effectively give a $31,300,000 gift to a company on whose board she sits. That is truly stunning and it’s disturbing.”

Sohn Apologizes for Her “Tone” in Condemning Conservatives in the Past

In the same February 9 Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Sohn’s nomination as FCC chair, Sohn apologized for the “tone” of past tweets in which she had smeared Fox News as “state propaganda.” She explained that her comments about Fox had been made: (a) in the context of a discussion about “big tech and whether they should be responsible for disinformation,” and (b) “as a public advocate and a private citizen.” Thus, she assured the senators, her previous opinions and comments would have “no bearing on any proceeding that Fox would be involved in.” “The larger point,” Sohn elaborated, “is the tweets were said in my personal capacity. I kinda wish my tone was a little less sharp. In fact, I don’t kinda wish, I do wish. And it would have no bearing on any proceeding that would come before me at the FCC.”

On March 2, 2022, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) released a statement in strong opposition to Sohn’s nomination. “Gigi B. Sohn’s social media, public policy stances, and employment history has indicated serious animus towards law enforcement officers and the rule of law,” said the FOP, which also provided a large sampling of the anti-police rhetoric that Sohn had publicly endorsed over the years. Some examples, as articulated and posted online by the FOP:

  • In June 2020, Sohn Retweeted a Post from Progressive Comedian Jim Gaffigan Noting “Expecting Equal Justice and Being Against Police Brutality is NOT “Being Political”.  It’s Called Basic Empathy.
  • In May 2020, Sohn Liked a Tweet Noting “Funny How One Bad Protester Labels the Whole Movement, But A Few Bad Cops are Never Supposed to Represent All Cops.”
  • In August 2020, Sohn Retweeted A Post Noting “While We’re Still Talking About the @Nba: A Reminder That Billionaire @Tomgores, Owner Of The @Detroitpistons, Robs Black and Brown Families to Fund Police.” (Sohn Twitter Profile, Accessed 1/17/22)
  • In January 2021, Sohn Liked a Tweet Calling for Several Progressive Agenda Items Including “Defund Police Surveillance.” (Sohn Twitter Profile, Accessed 1/18/22)
  • In June 2020, Sohn Liked a Tweet from AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] Calling for Defunding of the Police. (Sohn Twitter Profile, Accessed 11/8/21)
  • Sohn Retweeted and Liked a Tweet from AOC Criticizing Attacks On Socialism and Defund the Police Noting “When It Comes To “Defund” & “Socialism” Attacks, People Need to Realize These are Racial Resentment Attacks. You’re Not Gonna Make That Go Away. You Can Make it Less Effective.” (Sohn Twitter Profile, Accessed 11/8/21)
  • In May 2020, Sohn Liked a Tweet Criticizing Police Who “Stood Like the Goddamn Queen’s Guard When White Assholes W Guns Storm the State Capitol Protesting HAVING 2 WEAR A MASK IN A PANDEMIC.”  (Sohn Twitter Profile, Accessed 11/8/21)
  • In July 2020, Sohn Retweeted a Post Criticizing Federal Law Enforcement in Portland as “Armed Goons In Riot Gear With Tear Gas” And Defending Rioters Who Carried Gas Masks And Shields.
  • In June 2020, Sohn Liked a Tweet Calling for Police Reforms Such as an End to Qualified Immunity and Militarization of The Police. (Sohn Twitter Profile, Accessed 11/8/21)
  • In June 2020, Sohn Retweeted a Post Criticizing Police for Investigating the Associations of Protestors and Further Noting “Police Surveillance Must Be Limited to Prevent 1st and 4th Amendment Violations.” (Sohn Twitter Profile, Accessed 1/17/21)
  • In July 2020, Sohn Retweeted a Post Arguing “Make a Note, We Need to Forbid Police and Federal Agents from Using Military Uniforms.” (Sohn Twitter Profile, Accessed 1/17/22)

Ties to Green Party Activist

Later in March 2022, videos and images emerged of Sohn’s past involvement with radical leftwing protesters. In 2012, for instance, she had attended a pro-net neutrality rally which was also attended by Green Party activist Margaret Flowers.

Stalled FCC Nomination

As of June 2022, Sohn’s nomination remained stalled within the Senate Commerce Committee.

Additional Information

In addition to the positions and activities cited above, Sohn at various times has been granted academic posts at institutions such as Georgetown University, Yeshiva University, the University of Colorado Law School, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Southern California. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Footnotes

[1] The FCC is comprised of five commissioners, one of which is selected as the primary chairperson by the U.S. President. Traditionally, the party that controls the White House has a 3-2 majority on the FCC leadership team.