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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

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
33 mins ago - Economy & Business

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This week's spate of data highlighted the difficulties Americans who have lost their jobs have had bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, and just how much those who have managed to keep their jobs have been working.

What's happening: The Labor Department reported Thursday that the productivity of American workers fell by a revised 4.2% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the largest decline in 39 years.

FBI: Trump appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot

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The FBI on Thursday arrested former State Department aide Federico Klein, a Trump appointee who worked on the former president's 2016 campaign, on charges related to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, according to a court filing.

Why it matters: The 42-year-old Klein is the first member of the Trump administration to be arrested in connection with the insurrection, which led to the former president's second impeachment and charges against over 300 people.

Biden confronts mounting humanitarian crisis at the border

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images     

Just over a month into his presidency, President Biden is staring down a mounting crisis at the border that could be just as bad as the ones faced by Barack Obama and Donald Trump, if not worse.

Why it matters: Immigration is an issue that can consume a presidency. It's intensely and poisonously partisan. It's complicated. And the lives and welfare of vulnerable children hang in the balance.