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U.S. Senate panel approves McSweeny for FTC commissioner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate panel on Monday approved the nomination of Justice Department official Terrell McSweeny to be the third Democratic commissioner on the five-member Federal Trade Commission.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

had also voted in November to approve McSweeny, but her nomination expired with the close of the legislative session. The committee is voting again because she was renominated.

McSweeny, who was originally nominated in June, is a former domestic policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and is now chief counsel for competition policy at the Justice Department's antitrust division.

If confirmed by the full Senate, as expected, McSweeny would give Democrats a majority on the FTC, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law and investigates allegations of deceptive advertising, among other things.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said in a statement it approved McSweeny, and several other nominees. No date has been set for a vote by the full Senate.

The FTC is chaired by Edith Ramirez, a Democrat and a law school classmate of President Barack Obama. The other Democrat is Julie Brill. Rounding out the group are Republicans Maureen Ohlhausen and Joshua Wright.

The commission is considering several big mergers, including those of grocery chains Kroger and Harris Teeter.

The agency also enforces rules against deceptive advertising and is studying "patent trolls," companies that assemble portfolios of weak or expired patents and then sue large numbers of companies for infringement. It also works on online privacy issues, which can pit companies against consumers.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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