Amazon’s Influence in Washington Rises, Despite Criticism

By Maciej Wilowski, National News Editor

Amazon has been in the news recently following President Trump’s personal criticism of the firm. However, the comments come at a time when the federal government is becoming increasingly reliant on Amazon’s services as it works to shift its computing services onto cloud-computing platforms.

Mr. Trump last Thursday criticized Amazon Inc., proclaiming that the company undermines the traditional post office business and has upended the retail industry in the U.S., according to an article published in the Wall Street Journal. As per the president’s comments, “Amazon is not on an even playing field. They have a tremendous lobbying effort, in addition to the Washington Post. Look at the sales tax situation.” Part of the reason Trump has criticized Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos, people familiar with the matter say, lies in the fact that Bezos is the indirect owner of the Washington Post, a newspaper that has frequently criticized the president and thus created a personal incentive for the recent comments.

Despite last week’s comments from the Oval Office, the Amazon and the federal government are increasingly working more closely together. The bureaucratic nature of Washington requires that extensive web services and sites, spanning institutions from the Department of Homeland Security to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and National Health Administration, to be updated frequently and consistently. Currently, most of the information is still contained in outdated mainframes and needs to be made more accessible to the officials running these organizations. By instituting cloud-based, rather than mainframe platforms, a greater number of officials can work simultaneously in contributing and updating the information on these cities, and Amazon is the world leader in providing these types of services.

Amazon’s growing provision of cloud technology to the federal government has caused the value of the company’s business in this sector to double over the past three years, and is now projected to exceed $2.8 billion by year-end 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal. With growing influence in Washington, Amazon’s federal lobbying efforts have also risen, with lobbying expenditures rising from $2 million in 2010 to $13 million in 2017, a sevenfold increase over a seven-year period.

It would be wise, according to analysts, for the federal government to stick with and even strengthen its relationship with Amazon, as no other company can provide the same degree of consistency and technical ability when it comes to cloud-computing service. Additionally, Amazon has few competitors in this field, which means that few to no companies feel threatened or alienated by the government’s business relationship with Amazon. Jeff Bezos’ firm also has data storage centers spread all throughout the country, which act as a source of computing speed and efficiency unparalleled to those of other tech companies.

Several parties, including chief executives from corporations competing with Amazon, as well as a group of government officials along with the president, have expressed concern about Amazon’s growing presence in Washington. President Trump recently held a meeting with Oracle Corp.’s Safra Catz, who complained about Amazon’s lobbying efforts in Washington. The previously stated numbers indicating the company’s growing expenditures in Washington, compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, give meaning to some of these claims. The statistics are indicative of the remarkable growth and success of Amazon in recent years and the company’s influence on American society.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 10th print edition.

Contact Mack at

maciej.wilowski@student.shu.edu

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