Amazon is much more than an e-commerce giant and the world’s largest online marketplace. It’s much more than a tech giant, too. It’s a lobbying monster whose tentacles reach far into Washington, bolstered by last year’s revenues of a whopping $177+ billion.
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that this one-time seller of books now has what the Wall Street Journal calls “an army of lobbyists and a growing list of government contracts”.
What once was one of those idealistic notions of distance from the government, as WSJ opines from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ virgin idea, now has the government for a mistress.
In fact, WSJ says Amazon’s lobbying army is one of the biggest Washington has ever seen, including Exxon Mobil’s and Walmart’s.
It may not be the top, but it is the top three. According to WSJ, the top stop in terms of money spent on lobbying in Washington goes to Google/Alphabet, followed by AT&T, and then Amazon. The Number 4 spot goes to Oracle.
Amazon’s lobbying army is 94 strong, while AT&Ts is 112 and Google’s is 102.
(Click to enlarge) Amazon wants the government to buy its wares, even if it thought it would never go down that twisting and often dark path when it started out. It’s a time-honored story: Ideals give way to power and there’s no looking back.
So the Amazon of today is floating in the largesse of lucrative government contracts, including $1.5 billion in cloud-computing contracts for 2017 alone, and surely Amazon will want the biggest piece possible of the government’s future information technology needs.
And this brings us back to the burning question of where Amazon will choose for its second headquarters, with three locations around D.C. on the final list. Keeping the headquarters close to the center of power would seem to indicate a dramatic increase in future lobbying power.
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Amazon is already dominating a significant part of American life through that type of mission creep that no-one notices until they’ve entirely succumbed to it.
But what about Trump? This year has surely been a challenge to Amazon’s lobbying efforts, with Trump on the offensive. Trump says Amazon’s rise to power is detrimental to local governments and traditional retailers, and he says it’s “doing great damage”.
And Bezos’ lobbying power wasn’t enough to save him from the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling last week that allows states to collect sales tax even from online retailers with no physical presence in the state. It was a loophole that Amazon greatly benefitted from because it boosted online shopping at the expense of physical retailers.
“Big Supreme Court win on internet sales tax – about time,” Trump tweeted right after the Thursday ruling. “Big victory for fairness and for our country. Great victory for consumers and retailers.”
But more to the point, Bezos owns The Washington Post, so he’s a natural target for Trump and his “fake news” tantrums. In fact, Trump has called the paper Amazon’s “chief lobbyist”.
And owning this paper indeed brings Amazon’s lobbying power into greater focus. Viewed from this spectrum, it’s increasingly becoming a political tool that controls a frightening amount of American consumerism and much more. It could be a reckoning for Trump if it gets too much more powerful, or it could be just yet another force for the American public to fight off because it’s gotten far too big.
When the greatest question of our (American) time becomes: “Would we rather be governed by Trump or Amazon?”—it’s time for a major re-think.
By Michael Kern for Safehaven.com
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