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businessinsider - 13 days ago

Jeff Bezos tells employees why Amazon donates to politicians with different views: You have to be able to work with people who don t agree with you on everything (AMZN)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently told employees the company needs to work with lawmakers across the political spectrum. You have to be able to work with people who don t agree with you on everything, Bezos said during an all-hands meeting in November. The comments, which were on a recording reviewed by Business Insider, were in response to a question about Amazon s increasing political spending and about donation s by Amazon s political action committee to Republican politicians including Senators Mitch McConnell and Lyndsey Graham. Bezos noted that there are certain issues that are extreme enough that they would be disqualifying, but he did not provide any examples. Bezos comments underscore the growing importance for Amazon to work with the country s top policymakers, as it faces a more hostile political environment, both at home and abroad. Click here for more BI Prime stories. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says it s important to engage with politicians from both sides of the aisle even if their views are at odds with Amazon s professed values. That was the message during last month s internal all-hands staff meeting when an employee asked why Amazon s political action committee, or PAC, donated to some politicians who actively oppose the company s core values. The questioner asked how Amazon plans to reconcile this behavior discrepancy and whether employees should believe the company s words or the money. When you re working with people in general, and we have 600,000 people in this company, there s no two people in this company who are going to share the same identical set of views on every issue, Bezos said, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by Business Insider. You have to be able to work with people who don t agree with you on everything. Bezos s comments come at a time when Amazon is being attacked on all fronts from lawmakers and regulators, including presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are calling for the breakup of the tech giant. President Donald Trump has made Amazon and Bezos, who owns the Washington Post newspaper, a regular target of his Twitter barbs. And in 2018, Amazon was forced to abandon plans to open a second headquarters in New York City after running into strident opposition from local lawmakers. Amazon declined to comment.. Here s Bezos s full answer to the question: When you re working with people in general, and we have 600,000 people in this company, there s no two people in this company who are going to share the same identical set of views on every issue. You have to be able to work with people who don t agree with you on everything. And at the same time, I would say when you look at candidates, and who you re funding, there are certain issues that are extreme enough that they would be disqualifying, and you would say, No, I m not going to support somebody who has that issue because that, in my view, is so disqualifying that even though they agree with me on this issue, I m still not going to support them. But outside of those extreme cases, you have to be able to work with people who don t agree with you on everything. And I think in our current political climate, that s getting more difficult to do because people, you know, they kind of have these litmus tests for everything. But it s not right. The right thing to do within reason, again, outside of those disqualifying issues, is to acknowledge that in the way it works in the world and life and in democracies is that we don t agree with everybody on everything and that s okay. It has to be. Amazon s growing PAC spend Amazon s PAC spending almost tripled in 2018 to $1.8 million over its 2016 level, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That s roughly at the same level as its tech peers, such as Google and Microsoft, and more than double that of Facebook s PAC. Amazon s PAC spending was almost evenly distributed between Democrats and Republicans. Some of the high-profile officials that received Amazon s money include Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. McConnell has previously expressed more conservative views on issues like climate change and gay rights, which is opposite Amazon s more progressive stance. Rep. Mark Walker, who s part of a group pushing for Amazon to resell a gay conversion therapy book, was also a recipient. During the event, Amazon s top spokesperson and policy chief Jay Carney said the PAC is meant to be bipartisan and that the donations primarily help Amazon engage with elected officials. We donate to candidates, or elected officials, based on the positions they take that are good for our customers, are good for our employees, and good for our businesses, Carney said. It doesn t mean we agree individually, or as a company, with every position of each politician who receives a donation. For Amazon, the engagement is important as more lawmakers are scrutinizing its market power. The company has received a growing number of lawmaker complaints in recent years over its business practices, such as the way it monitors fake reviews or how it endorses certain products through the Amazon s Choice badge. President Trump, meanwhile, continues to be its loudest critic, questioning everything from the company s tax payments to how its market power is damaging retailers. But the lack of transparency over how the PAC is spent could potentially backfire for Amazon. Microsoft, for example, had to suspend its PAC last year after employees complained about its spending. At the time, Microsoft said it would review its PAC policies to give employees greater transparency over its spending criteria, according to a report by GeekWire. It s unclear what criteria Amazon s PAC uses for its political contributions. But in a company wide email earlier this year, seen by Business Insider, Amazon s CEO of worldwide consumer Jeff Wilke said the goal is to create a pro-customer public policy environment. We continue to face new legislative challenges and opportunities as our business continues to expand into new areas and the federal political environment changes in Washington, DC, Wilke wrote in the email. Strong public policy advocacy allows us to continue to innovate on behalf of our customers, employees, and the many authors, artisans, and small businesses that sell in our stores. Our Amazon Political Action Committee (PAC) is an important component of that advocacy in the U.S. And for those who don t agree with the way Amazon s PAC spends its money, there are other ways to contribute individually, Carney said during the event. There are certainly other opportunities for all of you as citizens to put your money where you think it s best placed on behalf of a candidate so you re welcome to do that, Carney said. But don t stop giving to the PAC. Join the conversation about this story NOW WATCH: Apple just revealed its AirPods Pro for $249, which feature noise cancellation. Here s everything that was wrong with the $159 pair of the wireless headphones.


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