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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Elected officials across the country have spent the past three months falling all over themselves to show Amazon just how much their cities love the e-commerce giant and would do just about anything to house its new headquarters.

Bottom line: The real winner is Amazon, which has created a feedback loop of positive press and fawning politicians just as the company increasingly needs both.

Big picture: Amazon, the world’s largest Internet company by revenue and the fourth-largest company by market cap, is reshaping everything from industries to main streets to homes. But this omnipotence also has put Amazon in the bullseye of a burgeoning "tech-lash," alongside gilded peers like Facebook, Google and Apple.

Enter the HQ2 search sweepstakes, which 238 North American cities viewed as their bite at the West Coast wealth apple. Suddenly, Amazon wasn't being criticized for putting local retailers out of business. It was being saluted for offering to expand its economic success, including to struggling regions that may not share tech's liberal politics. Bezos the Benevolent.

  • And the media — yes, including us at Axios — have pliantly played along, including through breathless coverage of last week's reality-show unveil of 20 "finalists" (which, conveniently, came shortly before Amazon raised prices on monthly Prime subscriptions).
  • Unsurprisingly, Washington D.C. and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs made the short list.
  • Don't be surprised if that "Final 20" gets whittled down again, in order to create another positive press cycle before the big reveal.
  • Such moves might create disappointment for the losers, but the larger message remains that they missed out on something great — not that they luckily avoided a dangerous conglomerate that needs to be broken up by the very politicians who were just extolling Amazon's virtues.

The Amazon HQ2 process is a Trojan Horse, designed to guzzle goodwill from the entire country, and then carry that sparkle back to Washington, D.C. when needed. Bezos the Brilliant.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel almost resigned over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel almost resigned in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelations stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.