In early September Amazon’s shrewd announcement to open up bids for its new ‘HQ2’ has seen a wave of free publicity for the company amidst a reported 238 proposals. The often public displays of courting have come from all but 7 American states, cities and regions across the country, allured by the prospects of 50,000 highly paid jobs that Amazon has promised for its new site. Amazon has not held back in its demands; 8 million square feet of office space, direct access to mass transit, an international airport within close proximity, and of course access to a top pool of talent- all within a metropolitan area of over 1 million people.
But whilst Amazon continues to enjoy hyper growth, its recent takeover of Whole Foods, and subsequent growing power over the retail market, has seen the company face growing skepticism and spotlight, Trump himself publically critical of the company’s tax practices, and even personally accusing CEO Jeff Bozos of using the Washington Post as his own mouthpiece. Both on the right and left of the house, criticism has been mounted around issues of antitrust, privacy and public disclosure. Amazon’s response to this growing pressure has seen the company wage a courting campaign of its own in the nation’s Capitol.
The company has cemented itself as one of the largest corporate lobbying outfits in the Capitol, The New York Times reporting an increase in lobbying staff from 60 to 83, and spending is well on its way to surpassing its previous peak. At $6.2 million in the first two quarters of this year, Amazon has reached 11th in the charts of company spending, going beyond other retail giants Walmart and Exxon. But beyond just raw spending, the company seems to increasingly pursue a strategy which has seen its web of influence in Washington continue to broaden. In 2016 Amazon gave over $10,000 each to a range of 66 think tanks, lobbying groups and political organizations, of these over a dozen were new relationships. The stepping up of government relation efforts was laid out even further last month, when the company donated $50 million to a White House plan to promote computer science in classrooms. As the power of tech continues to explode, Amazon is far from alone in its mounting efforts, as growth across the tech sector will not only continue to fuel the power of the tech giants, but so too an increased level of scrutiny across a much broader range of fronts.