When Jeff Bezos was chief executive of Amazon, he took an arms-length stance toward the corporate’s affairs in Washington. He rarely lobbied lawmakers. He testified just once before Congress, under the specter of subpoena.
Andy Jassy, Mr. Bezos’ successor, is trying a special approach.
Since becoming Amazon’s chief executive last July, Mr. Jassy, 54, has visited Washington a minimum of 3 times to traverse Capitol Hill and visit the White House. In September, he met with Ron Klain, President Biden’s chief of staff. He has called Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader, to lobby against antitrust laws and talked with Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, about Amazon’s recent corporate campus within the state.
“He was very inquisitive,” said Mr. Kaine, who met with Mr. Jassy on the Capitol in September and spoke with him by phone last month. Mr. Jassy was diplomatic somewhat than out to “bowl you over” by “force of personality,” Mr. Kaine said, and got here prepared with knowledge of the lawmaker’s committee assignments.
Mr. Jassy’s actions in Washington are an indication of a recent era taking shape at Amazon. The manager, who joined the corporate in 1997 and built its Amazon Web Services cloud computing business, followed Mr. Bezos’ footsteps for years and was viewed as considered one of his closest lieutenants. The succession last yr was largely seen as a continuation of Mr. Bezos’ culture and methods.
But Mr. Jassy has quietly put his own imprint on Amazon, making more changes than many insiders and company watchers expected.
He has drilled into key parts of the business that Mr. Bezos pushed off onto deputies, especially the logistics operations. He has admitted that Amazon overbuilt and needed to chop costs, closing its physical bookstores and putting some warehouse expansion plans on ice. He has began a tumultuous overhaul of leadership. And while he has reiterated the corporate’s opposition to unions, he has also struck a more conciliatory tone with Amazon’s 1.6 million employees.
The starkest difference with Mr. Bezos could be the recent chief executive’s way more hands-on approach to regulatory and political challenges in Washington.
Mr. Jassy has engaged more with the scrutiny on Amazon’s broader role as an employer and in society, beyond serving customers, said Matt McIlwain, a managing partner at Seattle’s Madrona Enterprise Group, which was an early investor in the corporate.
“I feel those sorts of things do matter more to Andy,” said Mr. McIlwain, who has known Mr. Bezos and Mr. Jassy for greater than twenty years. “Jeff has more of a libertarian mind-set.”
Mr. Jassy’s efforts could also be born of necessity. Political leaders, activists and academics are taking a more in-depth have a look at Amazon due to its dominance. The corporate has responded by expanding its lobbying apparatus in Washington, spending $19.3 million on federal lobbying in 2021, compared with $2.2 million a decade earlier, in response to OpenSecrets, which tracks influence in Washington.
Understand the Unionization Efforts at Amazon
Its challenges are mounting. The Federal Trade Commission, which is led by the legal scholar Lina Khan, is investigating whether Amazon violated antitrust laws. Last yr, Mr. Biden threw his support behind Amazon staff who were attempting to unionize; he has since hosted a union organizer from an Amazon warehouse within the Oval Office. And Congress may vote soon on an antitrust bill that will make it tougher for Amazon to favor its own brands over those offered by competitors on its site.
An Amazon spokeswoman, Tina Pelkey, pointed to a previous company statement that said Mr. Jassy “meets with policymakers on each side of the aisle regarding policy issues that might affect our customers.” The corporate declined to make Mr. Jassy available for an interview.
Mr. Bezos’ ambitions in Washington was largely social. His ownership of The Washington Post brought him to town, where he bought a mansion within the Kalorama neighborhood. But Amazon’s Washington office staff sometimes didn’t know when he was on the town. An Amazon team led by Jay Carney, a former White House press secretary, fought to insulate Mr. Bezos from the corporate’s critics.
Mr. Jassy — who was within the Republican Club as an undergraduate at Harvard and has donated in recent times to business-friendly Democrats — made helping Amazon navigate the regulatory landscape a priority right out of the gate. After Mr. Bezos announced that he was stepping down as Amazon’s chief last yr, Mr. Jassy summoned a gaggle of company executives for a briefing on the antitrust fight, two individuals with knowledge of the gathering said.
In August, Mr. Jassy appeared at a White House summit on cybersecurity. In September, he crisscrossed Capitol Hill to fulfill with all 4 members of congressional leadership. He also called on Democratic senators from Washington State, where Amazon has its headquarters, and a Republican senator from Tennessee, where the corporate has expanded its logistics operations.
Some Democrats pushed Mr. Jassy to let Amazon staff unionize and resist state abortion restrictions, said an individual with knowledge of the conversations, which were reported earlier by Politico. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, told Mr. Jassy to concentrate on constructing products and to remain out of contentious political and social issues, an individual with knowledge of the meeting said.
A spokesman for Mr. McCarthy declined to comment on the meeting.
That very same week, Mr. Jassy met with Mr. Klain on the White House, two individuals with knowledge of the meeting said. They discussed the state of the economy and other issues, considered one of the people said.
A White House official said Mr. Klain commonly met with chief executives and labor leaders, mostly by phone but sometimes in person.
Amazon’s most immediate regulatory threat is the proposed American Innovation and Alternative Online Act, which might stop large digital platforms from giving their very own products preferential treatment.
Considered one of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, met with Mr. Jassy in Washington in December and discussed China’s influence over technology. In one other meeting this yr in Seattle, Mr. Warner said, he told Mr. Jassy that he was concerned about how Amazon could copy the products of merchants that used its website.
Mr. Jassy is “going to be any individual who will probably be more engaged in these policy disputes with D.C. than Bezos was as founder,” Mr. Warner said.
Amazon has opposed the laws, arguing that the corporate already supports the small businesses selling products on its site. It has said that if the bill passes, it may very well be forced to desert the promise of quick delivery at the guts of its Prime subscription service. Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat behind the bill, has called the concept it might “outlaw” Amazon Prime a “lie.”
Mr. Jassy has also discussed Amazon’s opposition to antitrust proposals with lawmakers and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, whom he knew from attending Harvard at the identical time, people acquainted with the matter said. Mr. Jassy told Ms. Raimondo about Amazon’s concerns with recent antitrust regulations in Europe that it believes unfairly goal its business, considered one of the people said. Ms. Raimondo has criticized the European laws, saying they’ve a disproportionate impact on U.S. tech firms.
A Commerce Department spokeswoman said Ms. Raimondo supported the proposed U.S. antitrust laws and had spoken with Mr. Jassy. The spokeswoman declined to comment on their conversations. When Mr. Jassy called to lobby Mr. Schumer, Mr. Schumer said he supported the antitrust bill, an individual acquainted with their call said.
As Amazon faces the potential for a federal antitrust lawsuit and continued skepticism of its power, Mr. Jassy could also be a potent advocate for the corporate, said Daniel Auble, a senior researcher at OpenSecrets.
“Not many lobbyists would give you the chance to sit down down with — and even get a call with — a lot of the members of congressional leadership in any respect,” he said. “But in fact the C.E.O. of Amazon can get all of them on the phone.”