Amazon has spent about $40 million lobbying the federal government during the past three year, disclosure records show. Meanwhile, the company has paid zero in taxes, on almost $17 billion in profits, during the Trump administration and got rebates the last two years. As you might expect, there’s probably a connection between those two facts.
Amazon has been spending about $4 million a quarter for lobbying this year, up slightly from 2018. Most of that is done by the company’s in-house squad, nine of whom are currently working on tax issues. But disclosure records show that the company has hired ten outside lobbying firms over the past two years to work on tax issues as well.
It’s impossible to know how much Amazon paid to help lower its tax bill because the company and most of the outside firms have worked on a lot of additional issues as well. But all told, Amazon’s had at least another 30 lobbyists working specifically on taxes, in addition to its in-house staff.
One of its outside firms is Capitol Tax Partners, which helped Amazon with “matters pertaining to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut the corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent and offered companies a host of other loopholes. Amazon’s lobbyists there include Jonathan Talisman, former assistant secretary of tax policy at the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration; Randy Herndon, the former Tax and Budget Counsel to GOP Senator Pat Toomey, who helped put together the Trump tax cut; and Chris Javens, former Republican Tax Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee.
Baker & McKenzie’s Joshua Odintz, who previously worked at the Treasury Department and the Senate Finance Committee, has also helped out Amazon on the tax front. So have former Hill staffers at a firm called TwinLogic Strategies, including Sarah Dumont-Merchak, previously of the Senate Banking Committee staff. Among Amazon’s other hires are Ballard Partners, where founder Brian Ballard, a close friend of Trump’s and one of his chief fundraisers, is one of four lobbyists to work on tax policy, including another two former Hill staffers.
(Note: Check out this story from yesterday from MapLight, on lobbying by Amazon and other tech firms.)
Amazon has been spending more and more on lobbying every year, especially since 2014.
Meanwhile, it’s tax bill keeps shrinking. It’s not the only major company that paid no taxes last year, but it’s the one with the most profits.
Amazon was already paying a tiny percentage in taxes before the Trump tax cuts, but it has saved a bundle. It’s hard to see how it can do any better than its less-than-zero rates of the past two years but its got a small army of lobbyists who’ll be trying.