Though the White House clarified that "no specific" policy changes are being considered that might impact Amazon Inc., a report that President Trump is "obsessed" with bringing the tech giant to heel wiped nearly 11% off the company's share price earlier this week - translating to a staggering $13 billion drop in net worth for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2018
Given the panic that this report must've triggered in Amazon's Seattle headquarters, it's perhaps unsurprising that the company isn't waiting around for the White House to draw first blood. In a move that suggests Bezos was aware of Trump's antagonistic attitude toward his company before the president fired off his antagonistic tweet, Bloomberg is reporting that Amazon has severed ties with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, the biggest lobbying shop on K Street by revenue, and Squire Patton Boggs, another legendary Washington firm where Amazon's interests were handled by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
In their stead, Bezos hired Paul Brathwaite of Federal Street Strategies LLC and Josh Holly of Holly Strategies Inc., according to the person. In an interesting twist, both men formerly worked as outside lobbyists for Airbnb Inc. and Oracle Corp. at the Podesta Group, the lobbying firm that became infamous during the campaign when the emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, were published. The firm shut down after evidence surfaced early in Robert Mueller's Russia probe connecting Podesta's brother Tony Podesta to a campaign organized by Paul Manafort's old firm to lobby on behalf of President Yanukovich, according to Bloomberg.
To try and curry favor with President Trump, Amazon has been trying burnish its image as a job creator and innovator to push back against the perception that it is single-handedly putting its brick-and-mortar retail rivals out of business. As Axios pointed out in a recent post about President Trump's fixation with "golden age" 1950s America, Trump sees himself as the embodiment of that era - he's an industrious builder, like his father. Amazon, meanwhile, represents the antithesis of this.
As Reuters points out, Amazon spent $15 million on lobbying in 2017 - up from roughly $12 million a year earlier. The company employs about 15 lobbyists, as well as several firms to which it farms out lobbying work.
While the reasons behind Amazon's decision aren't publicly known, there have been some signs to suggest that Amazon's second headquarters will be situated in the Washington, DC area. Web traffic emanating from an Amazon internal server showed a suspicious number of searches about a certain DC suburb, and the company itself has disclosed that the Washington area is on its list of 5 finalists.