By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential hopeful John Hickenlooper, a former governor of Colorado, will release an anti-monopoly plan in California on Friday that could challenge the dominance of such companies as Amazon and Google, his campaign told Reuters.
In his first detailed economic policy proposal since announcing his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination last month, Hickenlooper's plan, shared exclusively with Reuters on Thursday, could help him distinguish himself in a crowded field of 20 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020.
Hickenlooper, who made his fortune as a small-business owner, plans to take on the tech giants and other large companies in San Francisco on Friday, in the heart of the state's thriving technology center.
"He's talking about it from the perspective of an entrepreneur," spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said in an interview. Mega-corporations like Amazon or Google that dominate the market can make it difficult for new ideas to percolate."
In a white paper to be released Friday morning in advance of a speech at the Commonwealth Club, Hickenlooper, 67, bemoans a slowing of the creation of new startup businesses in the United States, blaming lax enforcement of anti-trust laws from tech to retail for leading to dominance by a few companies in such varied sectors as hardware stores, cell phone providers and e-commerce.
Hickenlooper is not the first Democratic candidate to make the dominance of the big tech companies a campaign issue. Senator Elizabeth Warren last month vowed to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook if she is elected president, saying at a campaign event in New York City, "The competition needs the opportunity to thrive and grow."
LIMIT WORKER NON-COMPETE AGREEMENTS
Hickenlooper's proposal calls for beefing up U.S. regulation of large companies, including expanding the Clayton Anti-Trust act to encourage competition and appointing judges who are "committed to the original aims of the anti-trust laws."
Although the white paper stops short of calling for breaking up such companies as Amazon.com or Facebook, Hickenlooper's campaign said that beefed-up enforcement and a new focus on encouraging competition could lead to such results.
As president, the white paper said, Hickenlooper would also push for legislation to limit employers' ability to demand non-compete agreements from workers, and ban makers of automobiles, farm equipment, computers and other products from forcing consumers to use the companies' own authorized repair systems when equipment breaks down.
Hickenlooper would also direct the Federal Trade Commission to resume a long-abandoned practice of tracking companies' industry dominance, including examining past mergers to see if they should be undone.
Warren, in her announcement last month vowing to combat the dominance of big tech companies, said she would nominate regulators to unwind acquisitions, such as Facebook's purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram and Amazon's deals for Whole Foods and Zappos.
Hickenlooper is one of two governors to join the race to unseat U.S. President Donald Trump, who is expected to seek reelection. Washington Governor Jay Inslee has made climate change the centerpiece of his campaign.
A centrist, Hickenlooper reinvented himself after a devastating job loss by founding a brew pub in what was then a neglected area of Denver. He later became the city's mayor and served two terms as governor of Colorado, leaving office in January of this year.
In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday, Hickenlooper was among several Democratic hopefuls who fell near the bottom of the pack in terms of name recognition. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who had not yet declared his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination when the poll was conducted, led all other candidates in the race and drew his strongest levels of support from minorities and older adults.
Biden declared his candidacy on Thursday.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Leslie Adler)