|Amazon advised the US government on a portal to serve billions.|
Amazon’s lobbying behind the background shows how the company has quietly gained an influential position in the federal government. One of the leaders in Amazon, who was employed by the government during the Obama administration’s time, was privately advising the current Trump Administration for the introduction of a new e-commerce portal. This would generate billions of earnings for the company, giving it a dominant role in all purchases of the US government, from paper clips to office chairs.
The messages received by the Guardian show the communication between Amazon’s leading Anne Rung and Mary Davie’s General Service General Officer (GSA).
They wrote about the approach that the US government should take to design the portal, even before the legislation that this portal predicts and is also known to the critics under the name “amazon Amazon” would take effect at the end of last year.
Amazon gained great influence in government machinery
Although Amazon and the Trump administration do not appear to have the best relationship – this is indicated by the president’s blog posts on Twitter, often attacked by Amazon’s founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos – the lobbying of Amazon’s employees in the background shows how the company has been gaining momentum in federal government.
Before Anne Rung joined Amazon, she was an Obama administration official who was responsible for reforming government procurement policies. The communication between her and Davie offers a new insight into how Amazon used the key government officials it now employs directly or as consultants to gain the influence and ability to create profitable government contracts.
For the time being, it is not yet specified which companies will create a new web portal, but Amazon is expected to take the lead, which will bring him the main word on the public procurement market for commercial products worth around 46.4 billion euros.
The company has already signed important contracts with the government
Amazon is also the leading provider of cloud computing in a separate, about nine billion euros worth of contract for the Pentagon. At the so-called Jedi Contract, the data is transmitted by the Ministry of Defense to a commercially-run cloud computing system.
Amazon is already managing cloud services for the entire US intelligence community, which also includes the CIO contract, which Amazon ensures can protect even the most secret cloud data completely separated from the public Internet.
The acquisition of such power in defense and intelligence services is attributed to the employment of Svetena Spana, the former brigadier general in aviation, which the company employed in 2011.
Last year, Amazon also signed a contract worth just under € 5 billion, making it the main supplier of materials, including office supplies and books, for tens of thousands of US local governments and municipalities.
“Amazon wants to become an intermediary between the government and all other providers”
The company focused on Washington as its most lucrative client, which also reflects the decision that was taken at the beginning of the year when the neighborhood of Arlington in Virginia, alongside Long Island in New York, was chosen as one of its two new US seats.
“Amazon wants to become an intermediary between all government customers and all companies that want to be government providers, which is an extremely powerful and profitable position,” commented Stacy Mitchell, one of the leaders at the Institute for Local Self-sufficiency, in a group that supports local entrepreneurship.
Amazon did not want to comment on how many of their current deals are related to the federal government.
Rungova could also violate the law with messages
Prior to Rungova’s employment in Amazon on November 1, 2016, she was Chief Procurement Officer for the period of the Obama administration. In Amazon she joined the business unit and focused on expanding contractual deals with the government.
Messages received by the Guardian through an inquiry based on the Free Access to Information Act (FOIA) show that Rungova contacted Davie, the highest GSA official in less than a year since being employed in Amazon. She wanted to meet with her, and she told her it would be very sensible. She wrote in her messages that she has some ideas about how the government should approach the case, but wants to consult her beforehand in order to prepare well for the meeting they were planning.
The topic of their meeting was precisely how the government should form a new online ordering portal, and talks about it occurred at a time when the legislation that formally dictated the creation of the portal had not yet been adopted or signed.
The federal law, however, envisages that a period of one year must elapse before former senior government officials could work in projects with which they worked within the government. It is unclear whether the Rung messages could constitute a violation of this law, as it is not known exactly how it dealt with before it left the government.
Exchange of proposals for job applicants
Among the messages they exchanged – Rungova also used her private Hotmail account – later asked Divie Rungovo for suggestions for possible “outstanding” candidates who could occupy a government position, and Rungova (also from private e- of the title) asked Davie whether she knew anyone who could run business with the federal government in the Amazon Business unit.
Amazon Guardian did not want to comment on the details. They said that Rungov was acting in accordance with all the Ethical Rules of the White House. They added that she participated in regular talks with the GSA and that they approved the re-launch of conversations about online portals.
GSA: “We treat all companies equally”
In a statement to Guardian, GSA said that in 2017 and 2018, they met 35 companies to discuss existing commercial and market research capabilities in connection with e-commerce platforms.
“None of the companies has gained the advantage. On the contrary, all companies expressing interest in the commercial platform program are treated equally,” they said in the statement to GSA, adding that they can not guess about which companies will participate in the test of the concept, until they receive and evaluate all proposals.
Numerous measures taken in favor of Amazon
Lisa Gilbert, vice president for consumer affairs at the Consumer Rights Society Public Citizen, said that although she did not believe that Rung’s and Davie’s involvement in breaking the law was involved, she was “embarrassed” with the idea that former government officials had past her experience and knowledge of work within the government are used for their corporate advantage.
“In discussions with stakeholders affected by legislation, there is nothing particularly controversial. What really worries us is that some stakeholders in companies have special access, which other stakeholders, such as public interest groups, do not get , “said Gilbert.
Mitchell, a lawyer for small businesses, said that Rung’s email shows a relationship with the government and internal links that other competing companies do not have. In her opinion, this is proof of how the government infrastructure was designed with the help of Amazon, which gives them great advantage. At the same time, she pointed out that the Federal Government and the administration are taking a number of measures, which additionally help Amazon – from the e-commerce portal to the Jedi Agreement and tax legislation.