U.S. Senate Advances Alvaro Bedoya’s Nomination to the Federal Trade Commission

Alvaro Bedoya is one step closer to being Commission-ed

The U.S. Senate has narrowly advanced the nomination of the 40-year-old Peruvian attorney and director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at the Georgetown University Law Center to the Federal Trade Commission.

Alvaro Bedoya

Democrats are seeking to end a deadlock on the commission and advance an agenda likely to take a harder line on corporation consolidation and tech giants.

The vote this week was 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie. The Senate Commerce Committee split 14-14 earlier this month on the nomination, meaning that Democrats needed to use a more complicated legislative maneuver to move it forward via what is called a discharge petition.

Bedoya now faces additional Senate votes before confirmation, but that can happen if all members of the Democratic caucus stick together.

The FTC under chair Lina Khan did not challenge Amazon’s acquisition of MGM before the two companies closed the transaction, disappointing some union and public interest groups that had urged the agency to take a harder line. But any effort to challenge the merger likely would have been complicated by the lack of a Democratic majority on the FTC given the expectation that two Republican commissioners were expected to vote against a challenge to the transaction.

Still, the Writers Guild of AmericaTeamsters and other groups have urged the FTC to still challenge the transaction even post-merger.

An FTC spokesperson also did not rule out such a scenario.

“The FTC does not comment on any particular matters. However, we reiterate that the Commission does not approve transactions and may challenge a deal at any time if it determines that it violates the law,” the spokesperson said.

Republicans opposed the Bedoya nomination by arguing that he would be too partisan for the agency, pointing to some of his past social media posts.

Bedoya is the founding director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law.

The FTC is expected to move to pass a comprehensive set of privacy rules for internet companies. The FTC and the Justice Department’s antitrust division are in the midst of a review of merger guidelines, with the expectation that they will lead to stricter enforcement.

Huascar Medina Nominated for Membership on National Council on the Arts

Huascar Medina may soon be joining the National Council on the Arts.

The Latino poet, writer, and performer, Kansas’ first Latino Poet Laureate, is among President Joe Biden’s intended nominees for the council.

Huascar Medina

The eight-person list, posted on the White House website, also includes choreographer and educator Christopher Morgan, executive producer of Harlem’s Apollo Theater Kamilah Forbes, the president of John Prine’s Oh Boy Records (and widow of the late folk music icon) Fiona Whelan Prine, and ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro.

Medina has worked as a freelance copywriter and as the Literary Editor for seveneightfive magazine publishing stories that spotlight literary and artistic events in northeast Kansas. His poems can be found in his collection How to Hang the Moon published by Spartan Press. He’s the winner of ARTSConnect’s 2018 Arty Award for Literary Art. His new collection of poems Un Mango Grows in Kansas is available at huascarmedina.com.

The National Council on the Arts was established in 1965, with members appointed by the president and approved by the U.S. Senate for staggered six-year terms, advises the National Endowment for the Arts on agency policies and programs, and reviews and makes recommendations on applications for grants, funding guidelines, and leadership initiatives. If approved, Biden’s nominees will join other members serving now.

Biden’s roster of nominees is:

  • Kamilah Forbes, executive producer at the Apollo Theater. A veteran stage director and producer, Forbes’ Broadway credits include The Mountaintop and Stick Fly, as well as Off Broadway’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, written by two-time Pulitzer prize-winning writer Lynn Nottage, among others. She served as  associate director on the Tony Award-winning A Raisin in the Sun, and Emmy Award-winning The Wiz Live for NBC. Most recently, she directed Between the World and Me on HBO and HBO Max in November 2020. Forbes is set to direct a Broadway musical adaptation of Soul Train alongside producer Questlove, playwright Dominique Morisseau, and choreographer Camille A. Brown;
  • Christopher Morgan, choreographer, educator, facilitator, curator, and arts administrator. Morgan is Executive Artistic Director of Dance Place in Washington, D.C., and has directed Art Omi: Dance, an annual collaborative residency for international choreographers in New York;
  • Ismael Ahmed, co-founder of The Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and co-founder of Detroit’s world music festival Concert of Colors;
  • Kinan Azmeh, artistic director of the Damascus Festival Chamber Players, a pan-Arab ensemble dedicated to contemporary music form the Arab world;
  • Huascar Medina, the 7th Poet Laureate of Kansas. He currently works with the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission reimagining and developing innovative programming for the poet laureateship;
  • Jake Shimabukuro, the world-famous ukulele player who, in 2001, signed a historic deal with Epic Records/Sony Music that formed the basis of a string of hit albums and standing room audiences. He has played with world-renowned orchestras and at prestigious venues and events such as the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center, and Sydney Opera House, Bonnaroo, SXSW and Fuji Rock Festival;
  • Constance Williams, who, with a background in publishing, marketing, and small business and financial consulting, was the economic development and small business coordinator for Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District. She has served as the Chair of the Board of The Philadelphia Museum of Art and is now Chair Emerita, and was also a trustee of the National Museum of American Jewish History;
  • Fiona Whelan Prine, President of Oh Boy Records, the country’s second-oldest independent record label still in operation. Prine oversees the multiple Grammy Award-winning recordings and publishing copyrights of her late husband, American songwriter John Prine, and serves as Founder and President of the newly established Hello in There Foundation, named after a classic song written by her late husband. In the last year alone, her community involvement has raised more than $1 million for important social causes, including those related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mariah Carey Urges Fans to #CallOutYourSenator” in Campaign to Save Anti-Voter Supression ‘For the People Act’

Mariah Carey is encouraging you to help stop voter suppression efforts…

The 52-year-old half-Venezuelan American singer has joined several stars, including John Legend and Common, to urge their fans to #calloutyoursenator in a viral campaign to save the anti-voter suppression For the People Act.

Mariah Carey

Carey and the other stars have joined the Twitter campaign urging a bipartisan group of four U.S. senators to vote in favor of the bill that has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and is pending, but imperiled, in the U.S. Senate.

“No matter our color, party, or zip code, our voices and our votes count. @senatorsinema @joemanchinWV @senatortimscott @senrobportman can make that happen,” tweeted Common referring to a group of, respectively, two democrat and two republican senators who could serve as the pivotal votes in favor of the bill. “If you live in AZ, WV, SC or OH #CallOutYourSenators. Tell them VOTE YES on the #ForThePeopleAct.”

Carey, Legend, Evanescence‘s Amy Lee and actors Kerry WashingtonLeonardo DiCaprio and comedians Sarah Silverman and Billy Eichner have also joined the campaign to salvage a bill that enjoys support from nearly all the Democrats in the Senate, but is in danger of falling short due to democratic holdouts Machin and Sinema.

As former president Donald Trump and a number of his Republican allies continue to spread the unfounded “Big Lie” alleging massive voter suppression in the 2020 election — which election integrity experts said was actually the most secure vote in the nation’s history — the Senate is stalled on passing the bill that would, among other things, outlaw partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, overhaul campaign finance laws, make federal campaign spending more transparent and protect early voting while requiring states to adopt Automatic Voter Registration.

According to a recent survey, 67 percent of Americans are in favor of the bill, which has effectively been put on ice due to West Virginia democrat Sen. Manchin’s stated refusal to vote for it, which means it will fall short of the 50 votes necessary to break a filibuster; fellow democrat Arizona Sen. Sinema has also said she would not support the bill known as “S 1.”

Experts say passage in the Senate is vital to combat the hundreds of bills introduced (and passed) in Republican-led states so far this year that aim to gut early, vote-by-mail and no-excuse voting, repealing automatic voter registration and limit the powers of local officials to oversee elections, among other actions that critics say would heavily impact, young and Black voters.

Christina Aguilera Among Celebrities Urging U.S. Senators to Stop Gun Violence Now

Christina Aguilera is calling for politicians to take action on the issue of gun reform

The 40-year-old half-Ecuadorian American Grammy-winning singer has joined a roster of celebrities who’ve signed an open letter to U.S. Senators urging them stop gun violence now.

Christina Aguilera

Five years ago, amidst a string of deadly attacks at live music venues including the horrific mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, the cover of Billboard‘s July 2016 issue featured an open letter to U.S. Congress signed by 200 artists and music industry executives calling for gun reform.

Unfortunately, the need for reform has only grown stronger as shootings have continued around the country at a terrifying rate.

So now, five years later, as venues prepare to reopen after their pandemic shutdown and music fans ready to return to concerts and festivals, we stand again with the music community to ask lawmakers to take swift action to stop the violence. — Hannah Karp, Billboard editorial director

An Open Letter to Senators: Stop Gun Violence Now

As leading artists and executives in the music industry, we are adding our voices to the chorus of Americans demanding change.

Music always has been celebrated communally, on dance floors and at concert halls. But this life-affirming ritual, like so many other daily experiences — going to school or church or work — continues to be threatened, because of gun violence in this country.

The one thing that connects the tragedies like the shootings in Boulder, El Paso, Las Vegas, Parkland and so many other places in America, to the one that happened in Orlando five years ago this June, is that it is far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.

We call on the Senate to do more to prevent the gun violence that kills more than 100 Americans every day and injures hundreds more: Take action on background checks.

Billboard and the undersigned implore you — the people who are elected to represent us — to close the deadly loopholes that put the lives of so many music fans, and all of us, at risk.

Sincerely,

Christina Aguilera, Tori Amos, Sara Barielles, Aaron Bay-Schuck, Tony Bennett, Selim Bouab, Rob Bourdon, Scooter Braun, Cortez Bryant, Michael Bublé, Vanessa Carlton, Joseph Carozza, Steve Cooper, Tom Corson, Lee Daniels, Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Delson, Diplo, Mike Easterlin, John Esposito, Melissa Etheridge, Fletcher, Luis Fonsi, Becky G, Kevin Gore, Julie Greenwald, Josh Groban, Horacio Gutierrez, Joe Hahn, Halsey, Billy Joel, Craig Kallman, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, Carole King, Elle King, Adam Lambert, Cyndi Lauper, Kevin Liles, Dre London, Jennifer Lopez, Macklemore, Zayn Malik, Carianne Marshall, Ricky Martin, Paul McCartney, Julia Michaels, Guy Moot, Jason Mraz, Gregg Nadel, Yoko Ono, Mark Pinkus, Gregory Porter, Prince Royce, Bonnie Raitt, Dawn Richard, RMR, Paul Robinson, Maggie Rogers, Kelly Rowland, Mike Shinoda, Sia, Matt Signore, Britney Spears, Rob Stevenson, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Justin Tranter, Sir Trilli, Sharon Van Etten, Aimie Vaughn-Fruehe, Eddie Vedder, Andrew Watt.

If you’re interested in signing the letter, you can email guncontrol@billboard.com.

Alex Padilla Sworn In by Predecessor Kamala Harris as California’s First Mexican American & Hispanic U.S. Senator

Alex Padilla is officially representing the Great State of California

Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 2015, as Vice President Kamala Harris swore in the 47-year-old Mexican American politician as her appointed successor, as well as Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who won their races against Republican incumbents in Georgia his month.

Alex Padilla

On December 22, 2020, California governor Gavin Newsom appointed Padilla to succeed Harris in the Senate, after Harris was elected as vice president. He’s the first Mexican American and Hispanic senator from California, the first senator from Southern California since 1992, and the first male senator to represent the state since 1993.

“I need to catch my breath, so much is happening,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who now is the new majority leader.

Alex Padilla

The Senate split is 50-50 now, but Democrats will have the edge because Harris has a tie-breaking vote. That might be needed, as Joe Biden tries to usher through a series of legislative priorities, including a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and immigration reform.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will be the president pro tem of the Senate, which is third in line for the presidency following the vice president and Speaker of the House.

With Democratic control of Congress and the White House, there is some expectation that legislation will face legal challenges, as Donald Trump was able to appoint more than 200 judges to the federal bench, including three Supreme Court seats.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Swear in U.S. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

Sonia Sotomayor will make a special appearance at this week’s inauguration…

The 66-year-old Puerto Rican Supreme Court Justice will swear in U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Wednesday, January 20, a ceremony in which the first woman of color to become vice president will take her oath of office from the first woman of color to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sonia Sotomayor

Harris chose Sotomayor for the task, according to a Harris aide who was confirming a report by ABC News. The vice president-elect and Justice Sotomayor have a shared background as former prosecutors. And Harris has called the justice a figure of national inspiration.

“Judge Sonia Sotomayor has fought for the voices of the people ever since her first case voting against corporations in Citizens United,” Ms. Harris wrote on Twitter in 2019. “As a critical voice on the bench, she’s showing all our children what’s possible.”

Justice Sotomayor, who was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2009, swore in Joseph R. Biden Jr. for his second term as vice president in January 2013 (first in a private ceremony and again in public the next day because of a quirk of the calendar).

Sotomayor was born in The Bronx, New York City, to Puerto Rican-born parents. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and received her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 1979, where she was an editor at the Yale Law Journal. She worked as an assistant district attorney in New York for four and a half years before entering private practice in 1984. She played an active role on the boards of directors for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the State of New York Mortgage Agency, and the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush in 1991; confirmation followed in 1992. In 1997, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Her nomination was slowed by the Republican majority in the U.St Senate, but she was eventually confirmed in 1998. On the Second Circuit, Sotomayor heard appeals in more than 3,000 cases and wrote about 380 opinions. Sotomayor has taught at the New York University School of Law and Columbia Law School.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez Celebrates Passage of Legislation to Establish National Museum of the American Latino

Bob Menendez is celebrating a big win for Latino history in the United States.

Congress has passed a massive legislation package that green-lights the establishment of a long-awaited Smithsonian museum dedicated to American Latinos.

Bob Menendez

The 66-year-old Cuban American politician, currently serving as the U.S. Senator from New Jersey, was the lead sponsor of the U.S. Senate bill.

Menendez, a longtime advocate for a Latino museum said that the museum’s passage is the “culmination of decades of hard work, advocacy, successes and setbacks in the movement to recognize Latino contributions to America’s history, economy and culture.”

Though the museum could take years to conceptualize, curate and build, U.S. Congress‘ approval is a victory for the museum’s advocates whose efforts date back decades.

The American Latino museum will “illuminate the story of the United States for the benefit of all by featuring Latino contributions,” decades after the Smithsonian issued a report finding that it displayed a pattern of “willful neglect,” excluding and ignoring the presence and contributions of Latino Americans in both its workforce and exhibition halls.

“With this vote, Latinos and Latinas across our nation will finally have their stories, struggles, and impact on our country validated by the United States Congress,” Menendez said in a statement.

Menendez said he “cannot wait until the day when I can take my granddaughters to visit the National Museum of the American Latino in our nation’s capital.”

Half of the museum’s funding will be provided by federal funds and the other half from private donations. The museum has two years to designate a site.

In 2011, a 23-member presidential commission estimated that a “Smithsonian American Latino Museum” would cost $600 million divided between private donations and congressional appropriations.

The Democratic-led US House had approved the bill to establish a Latino museum in July by voice vote.

In the US Senate, however, passage of the bill by unanimous consent was blocked by Utah Senator Mike Lee, who argued that the country doesn’t need “separate but equal museums.”

The Smithsonian Institution “should not have an exclusive museum of American Latino history or a museum of women’s history or museum of American men’s history or Mormon history or Asian American history or Catholic history. American history is an inclusive story that should unite us,” Lee said in remarks made earlier this month.

Alex Padilla to Become First Latino to Represent California in U.S. Senate

Alex Padilla is the next senator from the great state of California…

Gov. Gavin Newsom is appointing the 47-year-old Mexican American politician, the state’s current Secretary of State, to fill Kamala HarrisU.S. Senate seat.

Alex Padilla

Padilla will be the first Latino senator to represent the Golden State.

“Through his tenacity, integrity, smarts and grit, California is gaining a tested fighter in their corner who will be a fierce ally in D.C., lifting up our state’s values and making sure we secure the critical resources to emerge stronger from this pandemic,” Newsom said in a statement. “He will be a senator for all Californians.”

Newsom posted a video, taken on Monday evening, in which he asked Padilla whether he wanted to take the post.

“You serious?” Padilla says in the video.

“This is the official, this is the ask, brother,” Newsom says.

Near tears, Padilla says, “I’m honored, man, and I am humbled.”

Padilla will face an election in 2022.

Padilla was atop the list of possible successors to Harris even before she was elected to the vice presidency. He’s a former Los Angeles city councilman and state senator, and was first elected secretary of state in 2014. He was re-elected in 2018.

He also has longtime ties to Newsom, having been chair of his first gubernatorial campaign in 2009.

“Whether you voted for (Joe) Biden or (Donald) Trump…  whether you live in the North State or the Southland…  whether you grew up speaking English, Spanish, Korean or Cantonese…  we are all Californians,” he wrote. “And I intend to be a Senator for all the people.”

Padilla emphasized his roots in the San Fernando Valley. The son of Mexican immigrants, he grew up in a three-bedroom house in Pacoima. “It wasn’t the safest neighborhood, but we had a backyard,” Padilla wrote.

Harris, the first California Democrat on a presidential ticket, hasn’t said whether she will resign her Senate seat before the President-elect Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Lin-Manuel Miranda to Take Part in Online Fundraisers to Help Georgia Democrats Win U.S. Senate Seats in Upcoming Runoff Election

Lin-Manuel Miranda is getting political…

The 40-year-old Puerto Rican acclaimed singer, rapper, composer, producer and playwright and other members of the cast of the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton, which he created, and Pearl Jam will headline online fundraisers to help Democrats win U.S. Senate seats in the coming January 5 runoff elections.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

If Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win their races, the Senate will be at a 50-50 breakdown between the parties, but soon-to-be Vice President Kamala Harris would break a tie.

Pearl Jam will join Miranda for a conversation about their artistic inspirations, with Wayne Brady as the emcee. The event will take place at 8:30 pm ET on December 16 on the virtual platform Looped. Tickets start at $10 per person, with proceeds going to the Latino Victory Project, the Latino Community Fund of Georgia and the Hispanic Federation.

Miranda and other members of the cast of Hamilton also are participating in a December 13 fundraiser for Georgia Democrats, Ossoff and Warnock in a livestream set for 8:30 pm ET. Others scheduled to participate include Leslie Odom Jr, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, Christopher Jackson, Jonathan Groff, Javier Muñoz, Sasha Hutchings, Thayne Jasperson, Ariana DeBose, Sydney James Harcourt, Carleigh Bettiol, Andrew Chappelle, Alysha Deslorieux, Morgan Marcell, Austin Smith and Betsy Struxness. There is no set ticket price, but the invite suggests $30.

The Hamilton cast also reunited in October for a fundraiser for Biden’s campaign.

The last time there was such a 50-50 split was in 2001, with Republicans having control because the Vice President was Dick Cheney.

Teresa Leger Fernandez Becomes First Woman Elected to New Mexico’s Congressional District 3

Teresa Leger Fernandez is celebrating a historic win on election night…

The 60-year-old Latina American attorney and first-time politician defeated Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson in New Mexico’s Congressional District 3 to become the first woman elected to the seat that is currently held by Rep. Ben Ray Luján.

Teresa Leger Fernandez

Luján chose to seek election to the U.S. Senate seat that’s being vacated by Sen. Tom Udall. Luján was declared the winner of the Senate race on November 3.

“It was so emotional to actually realize that I am going to be going to Congress,” Leger Fernandez said during a virtual Democratic Party watch party.

But the history doesn’t end there…

Leger Fernandez and fellow winners Republican Yvette Herrell and Democratic U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland all won in New Mexico, making it the first state to elect all women of color to Congress, according to The Hill.