Five Amazon executives gave individual campaign contributions to the Congressman who led the House antitrust investigation into their company just two months before their hearing in July, it has been revealed.
In July House Democrat Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island led a hearing where lawmakers grilled executives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google on their business and anti-competition practices.
Just two months prior in late May, five senior Amazon executives – CEO of worldwide consumer Jeff Wilke, CFO Brian Olsavsky, general counsel David Zapolsky, SVP of worldwide operations Dave Clark and SVP of North America consumer Doug Herrington – made individual contributions to Cicilline’s campaign, according to CNBC.
All five made the maximum $2,800 contribution, except for Olsavsky who donated $1,500.
Five Amazon senior executives made individual campaign contributions to House Democrat Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island (above) two months before he spearheaded the antitrust probe into the company along with fellow tech giants Google, Facebook and Apple in July
The executives that made the donations prior to the probe include Jeff Wilke, chief executive officer of worldwide consumer of Amazon.com Inc (top left), Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations (top right), David Zapolsky, General Counsel at Amazon (bottom left) and Brian Olsavsky, SVP & CFO of Finance (bottom right)
SVP of North America consumer Doug Herrington also made the $2,800 contribution
Cicilline became the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee in January when Democrats regained control of the House.
In contrast, no executive from the other companies probed in the House antitrust investigation – Apple, Facebook or Google – made individual contributions to Cicilline’s campaign, according to filings.
Only one Amazon executive has donated to Cicillini in the past – Vice President of Public Policy Brian Huseman who contributed $250 in 2012.
The last-minute donations shed light the play of politics and businesses behind the scenes and perhaps, Amazon’s nerves over the regulatory probe.
The antitrust probe investigated the massive scope and reach of these tech businesses to make sure the companies are competing fairly.
Regulators having been scrutinizing these tech giants, including Amazon’s expanding market, more in recent months.
In the July hearing Amazon was grilled on its size, expansion, and anti-competitive practices where the company was accused of using data from independent retailers who sell on the marketplace website to its own advantage.
‘[The donation] suggests a greater sense of pressure or threat of regulation from Congress, especially given the growing bipartisan attention being directed to this issue,’ Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a political science professor at Columbia University said to CNBC.
Amazon has not responded to DailyMail.com’s comment request on the donations.
In the July 16 antitrust hearing Amazon’s associate general counsel for competition Nate Sutton (center) took the stand to answer questions on the business and anti-competitive practices. He stands next to representatives from Facebook and Apple
Amazon’s associate general for competition Nate Sutton pictured answering questions during the July 16 antitrust hearing. Just two months earlier five Amazon executives made donations to the probe’s leader Cicilline
However, Cicilline’s representative said that the day the subcommittee launched the antitrust probe, the chairman enforced a policy to refuse campaign contributions from companies and executives that may be involved or investigated.
Those donations, which were made over a three-week period starting in late May, were made prior to the antitrust probe announcement and before the July hearing was scheduled.
Aside from trying to curry Cicilline’s favor in the hearing, Amazon executives may have had other incentives in writing out their checks.
Cicilline promoted legislation that Amazon backed such as the Equality Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or medical condition, and raising the federal minimum wage.
While the donations aren’t expected to change a lawmaker’s mind on an issue, they could lead to getting quality face-time with the lawmaker at political events, meaning they could lobby for looser government regulation on businesses in person.
In May and June eight different Amazon executives also made donations to Mark Warner, a Democratic senator of Virginia (above) – where Amazon’s second headquarters is located, according to public filings
Either way, Cicilline didn’t appear to be swayed by the Amazon donations and in a statement following the hearing said he wasn’t happy with the company’s testimony, citing ‘purposeful evasion’.
‘I was deeply troubled by the evasive, incomplete, or misleading answers received to basic questions directed to these companies by members of the subcommittee,’ he said.
But these five executives aren’t the only Amazon business leaders to donate to political causes. In May and June eight different Amazon executives made donations to Mark Warner, a Democratic senator of Virginia – where Amazon’s second headquarters is located, according to public filings.
The relationship between campaign donations and lawmaker policy has been long scrutinized in politics.
Donald Trump, for example, faced heat when he was sworn in as president and quickly signed an executive order supporting the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project while oil companies were his big campaign contributors.