March 29, 2018 / 6:07 PM / 7 months ago

Amazon's Washington influence machine built to withstand Trump's attacks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Between lobbying, campaign contributions and positioning itself as engaged on policy issues like job creation, Amazon.com (AMZN.O) has long courted a positive relationship with both the White House and Congress that will help it withstand the latest attack from U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Amazon building is pictured, as a spokesperson confirms the dismissal of some of its employees in Costa Rica without detailing the numbers, according to local media in San Jose, Costa Rica March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate.

The company was likely not surprised when Trump criticized it via a post on Twitter on Thursday; he has slammed it in a similar manner previously. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s decision to purchase The Washington Post has also stoked Trump’s ire.

Still, Amazon doesn’t appear to be left out of the White House since Trump took office; an official from its Washington, D.C. office participated in an event hosted last week by First Lady Melania Trump to discuss cyber safety and technology.

Disclosures from Amazon indicate they have lobbied the White House on several topics, including immigration, cyber security and drones.

Keeping a cadre of lobbyists has become routine for large companies that risk having their entire business upset by possible congressional or regulatory action.

Amazon employs about 15 lobbyists, according to disclosures submitted to the U.S. Senate. Additionally, the company works with about 15 outside lobbying firms who each assign more lobbyists to work on behalf of the company.

Amazon has wide exposure to various parts of the government capable of regulating their business operations - from federal aviation rules affecting drones to oversight of anti-trust.

The largest online retailer, Amazon is also working aggressively to obtain government contracts to provide services to federal agencies to save data online for them, known as cloud services. Currently, Amazon has a $600 million contract to host data for the Central Intelligence Agency.

The e-commerce giant spent $15.4 million in 2017, up from $12 million a year earlier, on lobbying in Washington.

The company’s lobbying effort more than doubled in 2015 compared with prior years, spending $10.5 million.

Amazon also maintains a corporate political action committee (PAC), a fund that allows the company to collect political donations from employees and then give donations to lawmakers and other politicians running for office.

By the end of February, Amazon’s PAC had $1.1 million in cash. The committee spent more than $718,000 in 2017 and the first two months of 2018.

The cash spent by Amazon was divided between Republicans and Democrats. For example, in 2017 the PAC gave both the Democratic and Republican congressional committees $15,000.

Reporting by Ginger Gibson

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