Liberal guilt is a common burden, and its latest iteration involves the public denunciation of Amazon for its shameful labor record while privately using its services, stores, and streaming options. A similar phenomenon is occurring on the 2020 trail, where progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are calling for substantial reform of the
e-commerce giant, while their campaigns throw six-figure sums Jeff Bezos’s way.
According to federal campaign records reviewed by Bloomberg, Sanders and Warren lead in Amazon spending among the 2020 candidates in the first nine months of 2019, with a little over $233,000 and $151,000, respectively. (The pair lead the next closest candidate, Cory Booker, by almost $100,000.)
In March, following a report of employee threats of suicide, Sanders tweeted that Amazon “must recognize that workers’ rights don’t stop at the minimum wage” and “must significantly improve working conditions at its warehouses and respect the constitutional right of its employees to form a union and bargain collectively for a better life.”
Warren, meanwhile, has argued that big tech companies like Google and Amazon should be broken up: “As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people,” Warren wrote in a statement in March. “To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.” And both candidates have criticized the company for its political spending in city-council elections in Seattle.
Though the spending suggests a level of inconsistency, the Amazon purchases are near insignificant on the scale of campaign expenditure: Warren has spent a little over $24 million in the 2020 cycle, while Sanders has spent close to $45 million. The Amazon buys also don’t negate the senators’ calls for reform: One can utilize a convenient service without calling off plans for reforming a company that is worth $880 billion, paid nothing in federal taxes in 2019, and battles to dodge the bill for workplace injuries. But considering that the two recently made an important gesture in support of workers — threatening to boycott the December debate if a labor dispute at the venue was not resolved in time — it’s not the best look for the two progressive senators to be the only candidates to spend over six figures with the aggressively anti-union giant.
But they’re not alone in their inconsistency: This year, the president’s campaign has spent a little over $37,000 on Amazon, though Trump somewhat suspiciously cut a $10 billion cloud-computing Defense contract expected to go to the company and frequently derides the nonexistent “Amazon Washington Post” newspaper.