August 21, 2019

Amazon Grilled About Anti-Trump Immigration Position as Shareholder Meeting Gets Political

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:

*Editor’s Note* – For those with understanding, it is easy to see the theater going on here.

Free Enterprise Project Warns Amazon Executives That Overtly Political Stances May Harm Tech Giant’s Reputation with Trump Supporters

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Owner of the Decidedly Anti-Trump Washington Post, Ducks Question with Claim That Company Does Not Take Political Positions

Seattle, WA / Washington, DC – Today’s annual meeting of Amazon.com investors turned political as a representative of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project  (FEP) questioned CEO Jeff Bezos over the company’s strong opposition to President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and travel.

 “As an investor advocate, our message is quite simple: taking overtly political positions on contentious, evenly-divided issues is a major risk for publicly-traded companies,” said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who attended today’s meeting in Seattle and personally questioned Bezos.  “Amazon executives made a clear choice to oppose one of President Trump’s top political priorities, and they need to realize such actions are viewed by Trump supporters through a political prism.  If Amazon is considered anti-Trump, it will almost certainly harm the company’s long-term investors.”

At the meeting, Danhof stated:

Amazon publicly opposed President Trump’s first executive order on immigration.  The New York Post reported Amazon took “a victory lap for its role in halting Trump’s travel ban” after that initial order was halted by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The company also signed a legal brief opposing Trump’s second executive order on immigration and travel.

Amazon risks reputational harm and consumer backlash for this stance.  Polling indicates nearly half of registered voters support Trump’s actions on immigration.  After Starbucks similarly came out against Trump’s proposed travel restrictions, Business Insider reported that “Starbucks’ brand ha[d] taken a beating.”

Danhof continued:

And Trump’s ban is not the first of its kind.  In 2011, after discovering two al-Qaeda members with links to Iraq operating in Kentucky, ABC News reported “the State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months. . . even for many who had heroically helped U.S. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets.”  One Iraqi refugee who aided U.S. troops was assassinated while banned from entry by former President Barack Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. . . it doesn’t appear Amazon said or did anything regarding the Obama-Clinton travel ban.

These examples raise a few quick questions.  First of all, Mr. Bezos, do you see any potential downside for Amazon related to the company’s opposition to the President, or from the Washington Post‘s anti-Trump bias?  Current and potential Amazon customers undoubtedly include Trump fans.  Are you concerned they may reject Amazon as they see the company opposes a President and policies they support?  And why were you willing to risk Amazon’s reputation by attacking President Trump’s executive order when it seems you lacked the courage to speak out against the Obama-Clinton travel ban?

 Danhof’s full question at today’s Amazon meeting, as prepared for delivery, is available here.

“In response to our question, Bezos essentially claimed Amazon does not take political positions; it instead takes policy positions.  While this may be the company’s aim, it is often a distinction without a difference.  Regardless of Amazon’s intentions, the company is rightfully viewed as taking a political position against President Trump’s immigration reform efforts,” Danhof said.  “If Amazon was truly just taking a principled policy position, it would have also opposed the 2011 Obama-Clinton travel ban we highlighted in the question we presented at the shareholder meeting.  But Bezos ducked that part of the question.  Interestingly, former Obama spokesman Jay Carney – who is now a senior vice president with Amazon – turned around from his front-row seat when I mentioned the Obama-Clinton travel ban.  It clearly got his attention.”

“I get the impression Bezos understands the risk Amazon faces in becoming overtly political,” added Danhof.  “He chose to answer our question diplomatically rather than double-down on any anti-Trump rhetoric.  He may realize that the company’s actions – and his own – have placed Amazon in a liberal-leaning light.  In the long-term, that would be bad for investors.”

This was the second time this year that a National Center representative asked a question of this nature at a company’s shareholder meeting.  Earlier this year, also in Seattle, Danhof questioned outgoing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz about that company’s opposition to Trump’s travel ban.  Danhof’s confrontation with Schultz garnered significant national media attention, with stories appearing in the Bezos-owned Washington Post, Business Insider, CNN and The Hill among many others.

Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group – focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business.  Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in nearly 100 shareholder meetings to advance free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues.  This is the sixteenth shareholder meeting the FEP has attended in 2017.

The National Centers Free Enterprise Project activism has yielded a tremendous return on investment:

  • FEPs highly-publicized questioning of support for the Clinton Foundation by Boeing and General Electric helped trigger an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundations activities that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign.  
  • FEP inquiries prompted Facebook to address political bias against conservatives in social media.
  •  Company executives acknowledged media bias at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) in response to FEPs challenges, which helped to bring about more objective reporting and more balanced political representation.
  • FEPs Employee Conscience Protection Project strengthened protections for the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations.
 So far in 2017, the FEP has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Breitbart, WorldNetDaily, Drudge Report, Business Insider, CNET, National Public Radio, American Family Radio and SiriusXM. In 2016, the FEP was also featured in the Washington Times, the Fox News Channel’s “Cavuto,” the Financial Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribuneamong many others.  The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassels 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).

 

 The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank.  Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations.  It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 60,000 active recent contributors.  Sign up for email updates here.  Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements.  To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at @NCPPRMedia.

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Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com Ducks Political-Neutrality Request

Jeff Bezos Ducks Request that Amazon.com Use Its Own Judgment, Not Political Activists, to Determine Companies and Groups to Work With

At Thursday Shareholder Meeting, National Center for Public Policy Research Asked Amazon.com to Avoid Politics When Choosing Merchants and Outside Organizations With Which to Associate

Request Comes in Light of News that Amazon.com Has Relied on Southern Poverty Law Center, Whose So-Called “Hate Map” Including Mainstream Conservative Groups Inspired a D.C. Shooting

Leftists Also Have Demanded that Amazon Boycott the Boy Scouts

Seattle, WA/Washington DC – Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos refused Wednesday to pledge the company would seek to avoid politics and aspire to be “content neutral” in response to repeated requests from left-wing activist groups that Amazon.com sever ties with traditional and conservative organizations.

The request for the pledge came from Justin Danhof, representing the Free Enterprise Project of the National Center for Public Policy Research, who asked Bezos, in part:

Mr. Bezos, Amazon has recently come under fire from activists demanding that the company end certain associations for politically-motivated reasons. For example, last week MSNBC reported that more than 105,000 people had signed a change.org petition calling on the company to ends its AmazonSmile association with the Boy Scouts of America over that group’s position on openly gay leaders. The MSNBC article also noted that Amazon relies, in part, on lists compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center to determine which groups to work with.

In a September 2013 report, the SPLC also claimed that Amazon was allowing so-called hate groups to profit off of relationships with the company. In 2012, the SPLC’s hate map was used by a would-be mass murderer to target the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. And in March of this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation broke its ties with the SPLC. Given this, and the SPLC’s shoddy record of defining hate groups, which includes listing many traditionally conservative and religious organizations, I urge the company’s leadership to dismiss the SPLC’s findings, and instead, use your own resources and expertise to determine who to work with…

On Wednesday, Danhof, again representing the National Center, made a very similar request at Groupon’s annual shareholder meeting. Groupon’s management emphatically agreed.

“Amazon investors and employees have sincere cause for concern following today’s shareholder meeting. I asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to make a simple pledge to be content neutral in deciding which merchants and outside organizations with which to affiliate, and he simply refused to answer the question,” said Danhof. “Bezos said he recognized that the issue was complex and that the company would continue working on it.”

“In the meantime, Amazon will apparently continue to rely on activist organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center for advice on which organizations Amazon will do business with. This is a scary proposition for Amazon’s investors. Doing the bidding of activist groups, rather than reacting to market forces such as consumer demand is an irresponsible business practice. Activists, by their very nature, change with the political winds, and if Amazon wants a defense against the next dictate from these groups, it will adhere to a content neutral policy which we suggested.”

“Just this week, the executive leadership team at Groupon was able to firmly pledge to stay neutral and not take dictates from activists groups that have been demanding that Groupon end deals with certain merchants. Groupon clearly understands that bending to political whims is a great way to break a company and lose market focus. By pledging to stay neutral in current and future policy dust-ups, they have inoculated themselves from the next activist attack. If companies signal that they are willing to accede to the demands of groups such as PETA or Greenpeace, they send a signal to other activists that its company is ripe for the picking. This is what Amazon has done today, and what Groupon has protected itself against,” Danhof concluded.

More on events at the Groupon meeting can be found here.

Danhof’s question for Amazon.com, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is a leading free-market corporate activist group. In 2013, Free Enterprise Project representatives attended 33 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many more important public policy issues. Thursday’s Amazon.com meeting was the National Center’s 35th attendance at a shareholder meeting so far in 2014.

National Center for Public Policy Research Chairman Amy Ridenour is an Amazon shareholder.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, three percent from foundations, and three percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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Why Does Amazon Ban Guns, But Not Extremely Violent Videos

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos Asked to Explain Why Amazon Bans the Sale of Legal Gun Parts to Adults, but Not Videos and Games Depicting Mass Murder and Torture to Young People

Seattle, WA / Washington, DC – At Amazon.com’s annual shareholder meeting, CEO Jeff Bezos attempted to duck a question from the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Horace Cooper about Amazon’s seemingly inconsistent policies toward the sale of violent media and guns, only to face two more shareholders, each of whom expected him to answer it.

According to a National Center analysis, Amazon.com sells all of the top ten most violent movies and the top ten most violent videogames, yet it refuses to sell guns, ammunition and some gun parts.

Noting that Google, Comcast, Ebay and Time Warner Cable have also limited commerce related to guns, Cooper asked Bezos to reconcile these two policies. If Amazon.com is opposed to violence, why sell the extremely violent videos and games? If it is following caveat emptor, why not sell the guns, gun parts and ammunition?

Said Cooper at the meeting:

Mr. Bezos, a research associate with our institution developed, using data from independent third-parties, a list of the ‘Top 10 Most Violent Video Games’ and another list of the ‘Top Ten Most Violent Movies’ of all time.

Having compiled the list, and having no idea which, if any, of these products would be for sale on Amazon, she then looked to see if Amazon sells them. Guess what? It sells not a third of them, not half of them, but each and every one of them.

I won’t even tell you what is in the film ‘Cannibal Holocaust,’ but if you’re curious, you are selling it for $22.50. If you want the most violent video game, ‘Manhunt,’ you’re in luck. What Amazon describes as an exploration of ‘the depths of human depravity in a vicious, sadistic tale of urban horror,’ is not only available on Amazon, you sell ‘Manhunt 2’ as well. Apparently it is the go-to game for people who want to, as Amazon’s product page puts it, ‘execute their kills in 3 deadly threats – Hasty, Violent and Gruesome.’

Mr. Bezos, many make the argument that selling an item does not make the seller responsible for it. If a teenager plays hundreds of hours of games that consist of never-ending gun massacres, becomes desensitized to the violence, and becomes a mass killer, that’s his fault, not the fault of the retailer.

I’m not here to argue with that philosophy, but to ask: how is Amazon.com deciding where its responsibility lies? Amazon bans the sale of legal gun parts to adults, but not videos and games depicting mass murder and torture for entertainment to impressionable minds?

Guns, as I’m sure you know, are often used in self-defense. The NRA says 2 million times a year; the NRA’s opponents say the number is closer to 67,000. Either way, that’s a lot of people protecting themselves. But who benefits from learning how to strangle an enemy in a toilet while playing Manhunt?

Mr. Bezos, we do not dispute Amazon’s right to sell any of these items, but as staunch defenders of the Second Amendment, we would like to know how Amazon made this decision: Selling legal guns and ammo to adults, no; selling vicious, sadistic torture and murder depictions to adolescents, yes. What is your thinking?

Bezos thanked Cooper for his point of view, said he would keep it in mind, and otherwise ignored the question.

Other shareholders, however, stepped up.

As reported by CNET.com, “But when two other shareholders followed up with questions about violent products, Bezos responded that the company wants to improve its policing of controversial content. But he said it can’t come prior to the products, offered by third-party sellers on Amazon.com, hitting the marketplace. ‘It needs to be self-service,’ he said of the marketplace. ‘If it was gated, that would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.'”

Geekwire continues the story:

‘We have millions of millions of items,’ [Bezos] said. ‘It’s a difficult technical challenge, it’s a difficult organizational challenge to police those items.’ He promised that the company will continue working on it with the goal of making its processes ‘statistically indistinguishable from perfection.’

Unlike the labor protests faced by the company last year, the questions did not appear to be an organized effort. The third time around, a shareholder asked Bezos for the specific steps to be taken by the company. ‘Parents cannot always control what their children are doing, and I think that you hold some responsibility for this.’

Bezos pointed out the parental control features in the Kindle Fire tablets, including the ‘Free Time’ feature that lets parents control what their kids watch and listen to.

And then he told a personal story about hosting a sleepover for one of his four kids. He collected all the electronic devices before they went up to their rooms. One of the kids asked if he could keep his Kindle.
‘E Ink or Fire?’ Bezos asked him. It was E Ink, so Bezos let him keep it. ‘If he had said Fire I’d have said no,’ he said.

He concluded, ‘Policing different content … people have a lot of different opinions and what is appropriate content, what is inappropriate. This is going to be an ongoing challenge for us, and we’ll do the best we can.’

Bezos did not, however, comment on Amazon.com’s policy regarding guns, gun parts and ammunition. Nor did he actually say that Amazon.com would remove any of the most violent games or movies once it reached “statistical perfection.”

The meeting took place May 23 in Seattle.

The National Center has challenged CEOs at 30 shareholder meetings so far this year.

A copy of Cooper’s question at the Amazon.com shareholder meeting, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than 4 percent from foundations, and less than 2 percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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