In this photo illustration, the Amazon logo is displayed on a smartphone screen.
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Amazon quietly donated $400,000 to a conservative nonprofit final year as the group pushed back on antitrust bills getting thought of in Congress, according to documents reviewed by CNBC.
The Independent Women’s Forum received the six-figure contribution from the e-commerce giant in 2021, the similar year the group wrote columns speaking out against bills that could strengthen antitrust enforcement.
The donation is tied for the second-highest contribution listed on the documents displaying final year’s major donors to the conservative nonprofit. Amazon disclosed by means of annual political engagement statements that the Independent Women’s Forum was amongst the nonprofits to get at least $ten,000 final year and in 2020 from the tech giant. Those disclosures did not list an precise dollar quantity for the contributions, on the other hand.
Carrie Lukas, the forum’s president, stated in a letter final year to House Oversight Committee chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., that the group “is proud to get help from a wide variety of foundations, people of all revenue levels, and from a couple of corporations. The vast majority of our donors — 89% — are smaller, person donors (beneath $five,000).” The letter was responding to a request from Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the Oversight Committee, searching for facts on the group’s funding.
In addition to its position against antitrust legislation, the group also reportedly helped craft a letter opposing schools forcing children to put on Covid-19 protective masks, and its affiliate is reportedly involved in efforts to reduce political blowback to Republicans as a outcome of the Supreme Court’s selection overturning the constitutional correct to abortion.
Last February, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced a bill that proposed to improve the spending budget of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission, each of which have looked into no matter if major technologies businesses compete pretty.
Days later, the Independent Women’s Forum published a column with the headline “Sen. Klobuchar’s New Bill: A Dangerous Signal For Big Tech.”
In the report, a director at the group, Patrice Onwuka, name-checks Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, suggests the sort of legislation could hurt buyers and raves about the tech giants. “Big Tech is tremendously helpful to buyers, smaller enterprises, students, and voters,” Onwuka wrote.
In October 2021, Klobuchar and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced a second bill that would give antitrust agencies a lot more ammunition to take on strong tech businesses. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would prohibit tech businesses from self-preferencing, or favoring their personal goods and solutions more than competitors. Such legislation could influence how Amazon advertises its personal goods on its internet web-site.
Another provision would avert businesses from providing specific positive aspects to enterprises who obtain or use other goods and solutions. That move requires aim at Fulfillment By Amazon, a service exactly where Amazon ships and retailers goods for merchants who sell on its platform in exchange for a charge. FBA goods are also eligible for speedy delivery, which indicates they can show the all-significant Prime logo on their listing. Amazon launched the third-celebration marketplace in 2000, enabling absolutely everyone from smaller enterprises that operate out of their garage to established brands to sell on its web-site. The marketplace has considering that grown to develop into a cornerstone of Amazon’s retail enterprise, accounting for a lot more than half of its on the net retail sales.
In December, Onwuka targeted that legislation with an essay entitled, “Amazon Prime May Not Be Around To Save The Day Next Christmas.” She wrote, “antitrust efforts such as this bill, are not defending buyers, but minimizing their options and driving up costs.”
Neither bill has but received a complete Senate vote.
The Independent Women’s Forum also was amongst 30 organizations that co-signed an October 2021 open letter to Senate lawmakers pushing back on antitrust legislation. “We urge you to reject any proposal that politicizes antitrust law or offers unelected bureaucrats even a lot more energy to handle the economy,” the letter stated.
In a statement to CNBC, Lukas, the group’s president, confirmed to CNBC that Amazon supports its Center for Economic Opportunity, the division that often requires on antitrust proposals by means of authored columns, amongst other points. Onwuka is the center’s director.
“IWF is proud to have received help from a wide wide variety of organizations and people that think in our mission. Amazon supports our Center for Economic Opportunity, which promotes women’s financial chance, worker flexibility, and entrepreneurship,” Lukas stated in a statement to CNBC.
“IWF’s message has been constant for decades in our help for restricted government and no cost markets. We have highlighted our issues about major tech censorship and publicly criticized what we see as censorship of conservative views. However, we have also warned that government options could backfire in terms of viewpoint diversity and for buyers,” she added.
Amazon did not quickly return requests for comment.
Conservative but ‘branded as neutral’
CNBC found the Amazon donation on a 990 type the Independent Women’s Forum filed to the secretary of state’s workplace in South Carolina.
Experts who study nonprofit groups and their economic records explained the public disclosure of donors on that type was atypical, and could have been a error by the South Carolina secretary of state’s workplace. Mark Hammond, South Carolina’s Republican secretary of state, is presently up for reelection.
“To me, it appears like the disclosure of this nonprofit’s donors was inadvertent. It appears like state regulators in South Carolina failed to redact the names of the donors on the Schedule B of this tax filing by the Independent Women’s Forum,” Michael Beckel, a analysis director at watchdog group Issue One, told CNBC in an e-mail.
Yet, according to Shannon Wiley, a spokeswoman for South Carolina’s secretary of state, the Independent Women’s Forum sent the governing physique its 990 type with the complete, unredacted list of donors. South Carolina state law makes it possible for nonprofits themselves to get rid of the identity of their donors ahead of filing it with the secretary of state. In this case, according to Wiley, this organization chose to send them the filing with the names of their major donors from 2021.
“The 1 on the internet site is the 1 that was filed by the organization. Our workplace files the 990 that is submitted by the organization,” Wiley stated in an e-mail. “The organization failed to redact Schedule B when it filed the 990 on the net,” she added. After CNBC reached out to their workplace for comment, the secretary of state’s workplace decided to get rid of the list of names revealing the identity of the donors, Wiley stated.
Amazon’s donation to the group is tied for the second-biggest listed contribution in 2021, according to the document. The only other $400,000 donation listed on the type came from the foundation of the billionaire Walton loved ones, whose wealth comes from Walmart. The Charles Koch Foundation, a nonprofit founded by power and manufacturing billionaire Charles Koch, is listed as providing $150,000.
The major donation to the forum in 2021 was a $two.four million verify from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, a 501(c)(three) nonprofit chaired by philanthropist Diana Davis Spencer, which has donated millions of dollars toward conservative causes for years, according to the group’s personal 990 disclosure reports. Overall, it raised more than $six.7 million final year, an improve of a lot more than $1 million from 2020, according to its 990.
The forum’s board chair and heiress to the Vicks VapoRub fortune, Heather Higgins, boasted at a private donor retreat that the organization is component of the “Republican conservative arsenal” and conceded that it is not neutral politically, according to reporting by the Center for Media and Democracy.
“Being branded as neutral, but really obtaining men and women who know, know that you are really conservative, puts us in a exceptional position,” Richardson reportedly stated at the 2016 retreat.
The Washington Post reported that the Independent Women’s Forum helped craft a letter opposing schools forcing kids to put on Covid-19 protective masks. The newspaper also reported that Independent Women’s Voice, the affiliated 501(c)(four), is attempting to assistance reduce blowback against Republicans from the Supreme Court’s selection to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Amazon is not the group’s only Big Tech supporter. In earlier years, Facebook and Google have also been listed as organization sponsors for its annual galas, according to the events applications. Google also has listed the Independent Women’s Forum as 1 of the outdoors groups that “get the most substantial contributions from Google’s U.S. Government Affairs and Public Policy group,” while it does not show an quantity.
Google and Facebook are not listed as sponsors of the most current Independent Women’s Forum gala that took location earlier this month, according to the system the group created public.
Ironically, Vivek Ramaswamy, a businessman and longtime critic of tech giants, received an award at that gala.
Ramaswamy stated in a short interview he was unaware ahead of speaking to CNBC that the Independent Women’s Forum had funding from Amazon and Google. He has no plans to give his trophy back and declined to comment about the group especially. He did concede, even though, that donations like these are component of an work by tech giants to use their dollars to attempt to sway public discourse.
“The use of capital as a weapon and the use of their market place energy as a weapon to tilt the scales of public discourse, I feel, has develop into a routine,” Ramaswamy stated.