Mar 13, 2019

Explore Amazon's wide Washington reach

Amazon lobbied more federal entities last year than any other public U.S. company, pressing its case throughout the government at a time when its power and reach is under a magnifying glass.

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Data: Federal lobbying disclosures; Get the data; Interactive: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Why it matters: The sprawling nature of Amazon’s lobbying operation is a reflection of its vast business. What began as an online retailer is now a behemoth that touches healthcare, cloud computing, media and the transportation sector — and the regulatory challenges it faces are just as complex.

The bottom line: In its filings last year, Amazon disclosed lobbying 40 different federal entities on 21 different general issue areas.

  • Amazon's total number of federal entities lobbied was higher than any other public company's, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. (The group's totals also include forms filed by individual outside lobbyists on behalf of the companies.)
  • Among public companies, Amazon ranked below Alphabet, Bayer, DowDuPont and Parker Hannifin on the total number of issues lobbied, according to the group's data.
  • Yes, but: The issue codes used in Amazon — and everyone else's — lobbying disclosure are very broad, often encompassing several major issues in one category. And there can be discrepancies in how different companies fill out their disclosure forms.

Methodology: Every quarter, Amazon must file a form listing every federal entity it contacted on different issues. This graphic shows 518 different disclosures made by Amazon last year across four different quarters, organized on one side by type of issue and on the other by the type of entity lobbied.

  • For example: When Amazon talked to the U.S. Senate about transportation in all four quarters, it generated four entries.
  • That does not mean Amazon only talked to someone in the Senate about transportation four times. Each quarterly disclosure could indicate repeated contacts.

The big picture: Of course, Amazon advocates on a host of traditional tech and telecom issues, like net neutrality and data breach standards. It has also been locked in a battle with competitors over a Pentagon cloud computing contract. But its lobbying records also show a company with interests in regulatory fights around food, drugs and transportation.

  • Amazon lobbied last year on self-driving car and drone issues, a sign of its investments in autonomous delivery of customers' packages.
  • A growing player in the grocery business, Amazon lobbied on a forthcoming pilot program to allow online grocers to participate in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, as well as on the standard for labeling bioengineered food.
  • It advocated around a law that banned "gag clauses" that had prevented pharmacists from telling patients when paying cash would be cheaper than using their insurance. Amazon bought the online pharmacy PillPack in 2018.

"When you put all these data points together, [Amazon] looks like a giant squid with many arms busy reconfiguring nearly every corner of our economy — and our laws. This is one reason monopoly power is a problem," said Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and a prominent critic of the company.

  • "Left unchecked, these giant corporations inevitably begin to govern us. It should be the other way around."

Amazon's statement: Amazon provides a wide range of products and services for our customers, and we’re always looking for ways to innovate on their behalf. Our Washington, D.C. team is focused on ensuring we are advocating on issues that are important to policymakers, our employees and our customers.”

Go deeper: Bloomberg’s Naomi Nix goes inside Amazon’s political battles last year

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