$166K for an Exclusive Obama Interview? Amazon Employee Campaign Donations Revealed

On Tuesday, Amazon added to a series on its journalism platform a rare, exclusive interview with President Barack Obama. Two days later, the New York Post noted that Amazon employees had donated more than $160,000 to Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign — four times more than the amount employees donated to his then challenger Mitt Romney.

kindle singles interview obama
Obama sat for an exclusive interview that was posted on Amazon’s Kindle Singles platform. (Image: Amazon.com)

Are these donations, as compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, and an exclusive interview with the president to include as an installment its Kindle Singles Interview series a coincidence?

These donations are just one part — on a personal level of the employees — of Amazon’s relationship with Obama, according to the Post:

Not only does Amazon peddle Obama’s books, but its Amazon Web Services helped build the high-tech data storage and retrieval system for the Obama campaign’s get-out-the-vote operation.

“During the campaign, the AWS solution helped facilitate the fund-raising of hundreds of millions of dollars, prioritized millions of phone calls and coordinated thousands of volunteers,” Amazon boasts on its Web site.

What’s more, the Washington Times reported Amazon had reduced the price of some of Obama’s books and noted that for six hours on Tuesday it offered free “super-saver shipping” on Obama-authored books.

In the interview published free of charge on Kindle devices (or free through Amazon’s reading app) Wednesday, Obama lamented a shift in culture toward consumption and the focus on celebrity lifestyles.

Obama said when he was growing up, “Kids weren’t monitoring every day what Kim Kardashian was wearing or where Kanye West was going on vacation, and thinking that somehow that was the mark of success.”

The interview was conducted by David Blum on July 30 at Amazon’s facility in Chattanooga, Tenn. In it, Obama also stressed the need for government agencies that can make a difference, the interview’s description read.

“Sticking close to his standard message, he spoke frankly about the increasing polarization of American politics since the Great Recession and Republican Party intransigence over his agenda. On a personal note, he reflected that he and First Lady Michelle Obama are constantly reminding their daughters of the ‘slightly unreal environment that they’re in,’ as children of privilege in a world constrained by unemployment and recession,” the description continued.

Amazon has received some flack in reviews for the interview.

“This ‘exclusive’ interview is part of what’s wrong with our political system,” Courtney Scheiderich wrote in her customer review. “This was obviously bought and paid for by political contributions. I don’t care what your political views are, too much policy is paid for by corporations and individuals who are buying favor from the people in power. As a long time user of Amazon and a ‘prime’ customer, it pains me to say that I’m going to have to look elsewhere for online shopping.”

“I am a huge Amazon customer. I will need to rethink doing business with this company. What a sad day when an organization finds it necessary to bring its political views to its customers,” a user going by L. Jensen wrote. “Really Amazon you are sad!”

Many in the book industry are also upset at Obama’s venue choice of Amazon’s facility for his jobs speech, which took place on Monday.

“For you to highlight Amazon as a job creator strikes us as greatly misguided,” members of the American Booksellers Association wrote in a letter to the president.

“The news this weekend that Amazon is slashing prices far below cost on numerous book titles is further evidence that it will stop at nothing to garner market share at the expense of small businesses that cannot afford to sell inventory below their cost of acquisition,” the letter also included. “In the end, monopolies are bad for consumers — and there are no examples in American history that prove otherwise.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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