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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon has a strategy in the face of attacks from several Democratic presidential candidates: hitting back.

Why it matters: A Democratic administration could mean tougher antitrust enforcement, and some candidates have gone as far as promising they will try to break up Amazon and other tech giants.

The big picture: Big Tech has become a political symbol of out-of-control corporate power. But while Google and Facebook have largely avoided mixing it up with specific candidates, Amazon is punching back.

Details:

  • Elizabeth Warren touted her plan to break up tech giants as a way to stop “corporations like Amazon from knocking out the rest of the competition." The company responded that “sellers aren’t being 'knocked out' — they’re seeing record sales every year.” (It also noted that “Walmart is much larger.")
  • Andrew Yang told GeekWire that Amazon was driving job loss. The company pushed back with data on the number of Americans in employs.
  • Joe Biden said this month that he had “nothing against Amazon, but no company pulling in billions of dollars of profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers." The company said that it pays “every penny we owe” and that it assumed “VP Biden’s complaint is w/ the tax code, not Amazon."
  • It has also tussled publicly with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) over her criticisms of how Amazon treats its warehouse workers.

Yes, but: Amazon's defensive postures don't always last.

  • The company blasted Bernie Sanders last year when he accused it of underpaying warehouse workers — only to reverse course and raise its minimum wage to $15 after the criticism kept coming.

A person familiar with the thinking inside Amazon said executives particularly want to respond when they think candidates are making inaccurate claims about the business as part of their criticism.

  • Amazon hits back against Democrats so much harder than it does against President Trump, who beats up on the company all the time but elicits barely a peep in response. The source says the company thinks Trump's attacks are being effectively corrected by the media.

Between the lines: While Amazon fights its biggest Democratic critics publicly, some executives are also making friends with other 2020 candidates.

  • General Counsel David Zapolsky and Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky each gave the maximum donation of $2,800 to the primary campaign of their home-state governor, Jay Inslee.
  • Jay Carney, a former White House press secretary who is now in charge of Amazon’s policy and communications teams, has given $250 each to Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg.
  • Booker, O’Rourke and Buttigieg have all pushed back against the idea of breaking up big tech; Harris has been more critical of Amazon in particular.

The bottom line: Amazon is toeing a fine line — countering its critics without being so aggressive that it alienates its customers.

  • “They’re not a politician. The public doesn’t want them to behave like one,” said Leslie Dach, the public relations expert who helped Walmart respond to progressive critics earlier in this century. “You can wage a PR war, or you can actually change.”

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

Driving the news: James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

3 hours ago - World

Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.