I had many memorable moments at the FTC, but one I’ll never forget is our successful defense of FTC authority over the “professions.”
In 1980, the doctors, lawyers, architects, and others almost succeeding in getting Congress to exempt them from FTC jurisdiction. When we came to office in 1981, we saw this as an issue we would have to face, so we sat down and discussed it in detail. We came out of the meeting with a firm conviction that FTC enforcement should be enlightened, reasonable, and effective, but that the laws should apply to everyone – no exceptons.
In 1981 and 1982, the professions were back at it on the Hill. Although a united Commission opposed their efforts, we lost at the subcommittee levels in both Houses. We lost at the full committee levels in both Houses. We lost the vote in the full House of Representatives. But as FTC director of Congressional Affairs Larry Harlow reminded us, we lose only if we lose at every step.
We drew our line at the Senate and marshaled our forces. Vice President George Bush wrote a letter to each member of the Senate opposing exemption. Senator Warren Rudman threatened to filibuster the initiative. The issue came to a head in the wee hours on the Senate floor, when Rudman ridiculed the proponents – and the Senate moved on to more pressing business.
We had won, and in the process had regained a measure of respect. It was a great team effort.
—James C. Miller III (FTC Chairman October 1981 to October 1985)