News and Commentary

VAN VOORHIS: Is Jeff Bezos President Of The Swamp?

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, owner of the Washington Post, and richest man in the world with a net worth hovering around $150B, is about to get even wealthier with a new $10B cloud computing contract from the Department of Defense.

This $10B contract is set to be handed over to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to handle the cloud computing infrastructure of the Pentagon. Bezos’ close friendship with Defense Secretary James Mattis has led some to wonder how much cronyism is involved in these deals.

The Daily Caller reports, “government ethics watchdogs fear Amazon’s web of influence may have tainted Pentagon’s $10 Billion Jedi Cloud Deal. A former senior adviser to Secretary of Defense James Mattis was receiving payments from her sale of a consulting firm she founded that worked with Amazon’s cloud computing arm, while the Pentagon simultaneously crafted a $10 billion contract that many say is tilted in favor of the tech giant.”

According to an article in Vanity Fair, when the $10B contract was announced, “everybody immediately knew it was for Amazon,” which led the author to question whether if “Bezos has become more powerful in D.C. than Trump?”

“There’s a new scandal quietly unfolding in Washington,” the article continues. “It’s far bigger than Housing Secretary Ben Carson buying a $31,000 dinette set for his office, or former EPA chief Scott Pruitt deploying an aide to hunt for a deal on a used mattress. It involves the world’s richest man, President Trump’s favorite general, and a $10 billion defense contract. And it may be a sign of how tech giants and Silicon Valley tycoons will dominate Washington for generations to come.”

Has Bezos set the model for what it means to dominate Silicon Valley and Washington simultaneously? The recipient of this $10B contract will become one of the biggest federal government contractors overnight.

“Amazon has spent $67M on lobbying since 2000 – including more this year than Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo combined, “the article stated. “Though there has long been talk about the Defense Department joining the cloud, the current call for bids was put together only after Defense Secretary James Mattis hired a D.C. lobbyist who had previously consulted for Amazon. The lobbyist, Sally Donnelly, served as a top advisor to Mattis while the details of JEDI were being hammered out. During her tenure, Mattis flew to Seattle to tour Amazon’s headquarters and meet with Jeff Bezos. Then, as the cloud-computing contract was being finalized, Donnelly’s former lobbying firm, SBD Advisors, was bought by an investment fund with ties to Amazon’s cloud-computing unit.”

While cronyism is bound to happen on some level, it’s unacceptable that the Department of Defense has chosen to issue contracts that exclude almost all companies except Amazon.

Vanity Fair continues, “If you think the JEDI contract is big, consider this: Last year, working for Bezos, Rung helped pass the so-called Amazon amendment, a provision buried in a defense authorization bill that will establish Amazon as the go-to portal for every online purchase the government makes—some $53 billion every year. President Trump may enjoy firing off incendiary tweets attacking Amazon. But Bezos is quietly finding new ways to bolster his empire with billions in federal tax dollars. And the Pentagon, it appears, is helping him do it.”

Bezos’ cronyism has no place in our government, especially when his extensive lobbying prevents free-market competition that benefits all Americans. The Department of Defense would be wise to open this contact, which is one of the biggest of all time, to the best provider.

The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  VAN VOORHIS: Is Jeff Bezos President Of The Swamp?