Amazon and Big Tech cozy up to Joe Biden

Platform News: President Joe Biden talking about technology on the campaign trail

Having a framed Joe Biden poster in the background, Amazon’s Jay Carney made no secret of his long history with the presidential candidate when speaking at a digital policy roundtable through August’s Democratic party conference.

Mr Carney, who is currently Amazon’s public policy and communications leader, touted the thousands and thousands of jobs his company has established and joined Microsoft’s President Brad Smith as one of two senior tech executives to have a public function at the conference – hinting at Amazon’s potential influence on a Biden government if the democrat wins the White House.

Amazon appears to have taken an early lead creating in-roads with all the Biden camp, according to information gathered by journalists at our partner news agency Reuters by OpenSecrets and campaign finance documents, together with interviews with more than a dozen stakeholders including anti-monopoly classes, lobbyists, congressional aides, competitions and lawmakers.

Joining Amazon, Google and Microsoft are among the top five contributors to Joe Biden’s candidate campaign in the 2020 cycle, according to data in OpenSecrets, a website which tracks money in politics and campaign finance documents.

The firms are banned by law from donating themselves. The contributions were either made by the company’s political action committees (PACs) themselves, members of the PAC or their workers.

Tech is strengthening relationships in the event of a Biden victory to ensure they have a voice within an onslaught of national and state investigations into their business practices, according to campaign finance records and interviews.

The business’s coziness with the Democratic Party, that dates back through several elections, has critics of their market dominance worried.

Sally Hubbard, who’s worked with Democratic lawmakers in the past and currently focuses on monopoly power of tech companies at Washington-based Open Markets Institute, does not want a Biden victory to translate into a repeat of what was widely seen as President Obama’s hands-off approach to the sector.

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She asked, adding there will be a substantial quantity of pressure from anti-monopoly groups and the progressive wing of the Democratic party to hold the companies accountable.

Based upon the position of a possible Biden government, existing antitrust probes beneath President Trump and state attorneys general might intensify or be diminished.

Biden, for his part, has criticized big internet firms during interviews and campaign events. He’s urged the revocation of a key legal shield protecting internet companies from liability over content that is inbound. He’s also expressed concern over market focus and privacy issues in the technology industry; criticized Amazon for not paying taxes; and expressed displeasure with Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg.

His two main advisers on tech policy comprise Bruce Reed, who served as Biden’s chief of staff from 2011-13, and Stef Feldman, the effort’s policy director, according to a source with all the Biden campaign. Reed and Feldman did not respond to requests for comment through the campaign.

A spokeswoman for Amazon explained the organization’s PAC didn’t give rise to this Biden campaign. She said Amazon encouraged both the Democratic and Republican National Convention with digital and technology services to improve viewership.

“We work with each administration in the same way… our approach will not change regardless of who wins the election,” the spokeswoman added.

Biden campaign spokesman Matt Hill stated Joe Biden is contrary to the misuse of power. “Many technology giants and their executives have not only abused their power, but misled the American people, damaged our democracy, and evaded any form of responsibility.

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Google declined comment. Microsoft said the contributions were made by its own employees.


Tech’s ties to Biden run deep.

Amazon’s Carney worked in former President Barack Obama’s administration as press secretary to get a little over three decades. He had been Vice President Biden’s communications director for its initial two years of this Obama administration.

Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky is a top fundraiser for Biden, also known as a bundler who as individuals have increased over $25,000. Bundlers are occasionally rewarded with plum positions in their beneficiary’s administration, such as key work in federal agencies and influential advisory commissions. Zapolsky has also directly contributed a little over $250,000 to distinct funds supporting Biden’s presidency, according to campaign finance records. Zapolsky didn’t comment.

Meanwhile the Biden campaign’s transition team and working groups have added at least eight people who worked for Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple and others with ties to these businesses.

A senior policy counsel to get a progressive Senate Democrat, who didn’t wish to be named, said Big Tech’s familiarity with all the Biden effort is worrying. The struggle for the left wing of the Democratic party on this issue will likely be on whether they can acquire crucial appointments in the government and not as much about transferring Biden toward innovative choices, the aide added.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley, a close ally of Trump and also a vocal critic of large tech platforms, said the progressives may find a “rhetorical nod in their direction now and then,” but the Biden campaign’s fundraising indicates the progressives will battle.

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To be certain, many large technology companies – their employees, PAC’s or PAC members – have been top contributors to Democratic presidential campaigns from the past three election cycles, with one noteworthy exception: Amazon. However, contributions from the Seattle-based merchant’s workers have made Amazon the fifth largest contributor to the Democratic nominee’s candidate campaign committee, based on data from OpenSecrets and campaign finance documents. Big technology companies are entirely missing from the Trump campaign ministry’s top 20 contributors list.

Donations from senior Amazon executives to the Biden campaign during the primaries were second only to Microsoft, according to data from the Revolving Door Project, which is part of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“I think all the fundraising we are seeing is probably going to buy them (Amazon) access, but in terms of policy results, I think it’s going to buy them very little,” said an advisor on technician policy to the Biden effort, who didn’t wish to be named. “There is a lot of collective outrage against tech in Washington these days, and they simply cannot fly under the radar.”

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington. Editing by Chris Sanders and Edward Tobin.

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