Amazon: “I am the law!” (in Seattle and D.C)

(Judge Dredd 1995)

Rather than back down from the rising national and international antitrust scrutiny put upon Amazon for its continued acquisitions and online-sellers’ growing dependence on the site, the company is preparing for a long fight. Amazon’s in-house lobbyists hires have tripled in the last 3 years, an addition to the 13 lobbyist firms it employs. And while Amazon’s total lobbying amount of $14 Million lags behind Google’s $21 Million. Amazon’s rate of investment into lobbyists is growing far faster than any other tech company, at 460% since 2012. Amazon’s relationship with D.C has become very intense as the firm dukes it out with other web service providers over a $10 Billion Pentagon contract over who gets to run the department’s online systems.

It doesn’t just end there though as Amazon continues to move towards its efforts to amend the National Defense Authorization Act allowing it to become the primary online portal through which the US government would buy its supplies ranging from furniture, to coffee machines, to pens. A successful deal would add some $53 Billion, or about 4 Whole Foods acquisitions, to Amazon’s revenue. When a single company becomes the bedrock of day-to-day government operations and purchasing, it is only reasonable to become concerned towards the just how much influence the company has over our economy and thus our government. Amazon has been hiring plenty of senior government lawyers, antitrust lawyers, and before mentioned lobbyists in order to influence and challenge the government’s coming pressure.

Provided HQ2 brings in the estimated 25,000 jobs; Amazon is geared to become the largest private employer in our nation’s capital. And there are few more influential lobbyists than job numbers. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs! The word alone gets civilians and politicians alike salivating. Jobs and their associated benefits of increased spending, business creation, and business attraction are currency in of themselves in private-to-government negotiations. And in this case it is the private firm that holds the power. This can seen in Seattle where when the city wrote up plans to tax firms making greater than $20 Million a year $500 dollars per person employed  in order to help pay for addressing Seattle homelessness. Amazon would have to pay some $20 Million for its 40,000 workers and so threatened to cease the building of a 700,000 sq. ft. secondary office in Seattle. This potential loss of job growth was enough to make the city government surrender and kill any new corporate tax efforts. It turns out though that Amazon didn’t need the new building, the company has just recently cancelled its construction and expansion plans in Seattle anyway. My point being, what’s to stop such an exercise of power occurring in our nation’s capital city? And if something similar does happen, at some point the American populace has to question just how powerful a private company should be allowed to be. At a certain point it seems like a company truly can threaten democratic rule.



About Sean Wong-Westbrooke

Graduating IPE Major and Economics Minor with a passion for the unexpected ways economics factors into our lives and its relations with the politics of power. I like to write about stories that make me smile, shake my head, or rile me up.

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