May 28, 2019

Axios PM

Good afternoon. Today's PM is 497 words.

1 big thing: The Giving Pledge snags a Bezos

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

MacKenzie Bezos is part of the latest tranche of billionaires to sign on to the Giving Pledge, which commits participants to giving away at least half of their fortunes.

Why it matters: Bezos is estimated to be worth more than $35 billion after her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Her move opens her up to criticism over how the mega-wealthy use philanthropy, Axios' David McCabe reports.


  • She might go further than half, hinting in her letter making the commitment that she “has a disproportionate amount of money to share” and that she will ”keep at it until the safe is empty.”
  • A spokesperson for Bezos declined to comment on her specific priorities, but the Day One Fund that she and Jeff Bezos launched last year focused on education and homelessness.
  • Other pledge signatories this year include WhatsApp founder Brian Acton and his wife, former Stanford Communications Director Tegan Acton, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, and his wife, physician Erica Lawson, as well as VCs Chris and Crystal Sacca.
  • The total number of Giving Pledge signatories now numbers 204.

The big picture: Bezos and the other billionaires who’ve taken the pledge are liable to charges that they are using philanthropy to influence society without doing anything to address the underlying causes of inequality — or paying their fair share of taxes.

The bottom line, via Axios' Scott Rosenberg: There's a growing chorus of critics pointing out that we're allowing billionaires to choose how to spend their fortunes without paying any taxes on them, when we could be taxing them and devoting a portion to publicly agreed upon needs.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Pavel Golovkin/AGP

Serena Williams takes off her jacket with French text reading "Champion," "Queen," "Goddess," and "Mother" after warming up prior to her first round match of the French Open.

2. What you missed
  1. Netflix is considering boycotting Georgia in light of the state's abortion ban. Details.
  2. Kamala Harris wants a Voting Rights Act framework for abortion, requiring DOJ approval for state abortion legislation. Go deeper.
  3. Alibaba is considering a $20 billion secondary offering in Hong Kong, five years after raising $25 billion via an IPO in New York. [Bloomberg]
  4. U.K. speaker still opposes Trump addressing Parliament, saying "nothing has happened to change his mind since" 2017 — when the speaker cited "racism and sexism" in opposing a Trump invite. Go deeper.
3. 1 👽 thing

"Navy Pilots Report Unexplained Flying Objects ... [They told] their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds," write the N.Y. Times' Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean.

  • That follows the team's 2017 report of a $22 million Pentagon program that "investigated reports of unidentified flying objects."
  • "No one in the Defense Department is saying that the objects were extraterrestrial, and experts emphasize that earthly explanations can generally be found for such incidents."

An alternative take from Tufts' Daniel W. Drezner in the Washington Post: "UFOs are not the same thing as extraterrestrial life. But we should start thinking about that possibility."

  • "What appears to be happening is that official organs of the state are now acknowledging that UFOs exist, even if they are not literally using the term."