Trump Blasts Amazon, yet His Campaign Used It to Order Over $150,000 in Office Supplies: Report

Illustration for article titled Trump Blasts Amazon, yet His Campaign Used It to Order Over $150,000 in Office Supplies: Report
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has a habit of saying one thing and doing another—like that historically embarrassing moment on the Late Show With David Letterman in which Trump blasted China for threatening America’s economic greatness, only for Letterman to show that Trump’s ties were made in China:

Well, after days of Trump coming for Amazon.com, claiming that the e-commerce giant is ruining the U.S. Postal Service by taking advantage of lower-than-retail shipping charges and skirting local and state taxes—claims he made for years before taking office—CBS News has found that his presidential campaign was quite fond of the online retail site:

Trump’s presidential campaign relied on Amazon for office supplies regularly, spending $158,498.41 in 379 transactions labeled as office supply purchases in 2015 and 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records reviewed by CBS News. In the average transaction, Mr. Trump’s campaign spent $418.20, and the most the campaign spent in a single transaction was $3,890. The Donald J. Trump for President committee continued to use Amazon well after the election, spending more than $2,000 in 2017, FEC records show.

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Sounds as if the president’s huffing and puffing about Amazon—which we all know has everything to with his jealousy around real American-made billionaire Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post—didn’t stop his campaign folks from being all over Amazon’s site. Trump’s staff loved them some Amazon. If Amazon.com were on Tinder, Trump’s employees would swipe right. Trump’s employees stayed in Amazon’s DMs.

According to CBS News, the White House still claims that Trump’s criticisms of Amazon are strictly policy related, but the Maury Trump envelope confirms that is a lie: When it comes to hating on Washington Post owner and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Trump, you are the father!

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On Saturday, without any evidence, Trump claimed that Amazon.com is using the Washington Post as a “lobbyist.” The president of petty added that the newspaper should “REGISTER” as such—yes, he all-capped it. The fact that Trump won’t stop attacking the Washington Post and criticizing Amazon.com further proves that the president’s beef isn’t with the retail giant but with its owner.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.

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Amazon.com is a World-Class Tax-Dodger

While other companies struggled with the world recession, Amazon.com has prospered. Between 2008 and 2010, Amazon’s gross annual profits increased from $4.3 billion to $7.7 billion. Because of its sophisticated and controversial practices for exploiting tax laws that were not written to account for internet commerce, it has paid only a small fraction of its corporate income in taxes. What’s more, it has increased its bottom line by deftly avoiding sales taxes that its rivals have to collect.

At least 5 countries outside the U.S. have recently investigated Amazon.com for engaging in dishonest financial practices meant to avoid paying taxes. Amazon.com has generated controversy in Japan by failing to report its income there from 2003 to 2005. In 2009, the Japanese government ordered Amazon.com to pay over $119 million it was estimated to have owed. In its 2009 annual report, Amazon stated bluntly that “We believe that these claims are without merit and are disputing the assessment.” In addition, Japan has been investigating Amazon.com for violating a U.S. tax treaty by falsifying the location of its sales to avoid Japanese corporate income taxes between 2006 and 2009.

Meanwhile, according to the Amazon.com’s 2009 annual report, it is subject to investigations for tax-dodging in “France for 2006 through 2009, Germany for 2003 through 2009, Luxembourg for 2004 through 2009, and the United Kingdom for 2003 through 2009.” These investigations have been progressing for years, and appear to be ongoing.

According to the Seattle Times, one of the reasons that Amazon.com tax policies are so controversial both in and outside the U.S. is because of the innovative legal argument that Amazon has pioneered that its “distribution centers” are separate institutions that do not constitute a “physical presence” within a state or nation. In the U.S., Amazon.com does collect sales taxes in six states. But it also avoids paying sales tax on goods that move through its facilities in “Arizona, Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.”

Amazon.com plays hardball with those governments who disagree with its interpretation of what constitutes a “physical presence” in their states. The state of Texas is currently suing Amazon.com for what it alleges are $269 million in unpaid sales taxes. In response to this lawsuit, Amazon counter-sued and announced plans to completely close its operations in Texas. Similarly, when state governments have sought to pass legislation taxing the transactions of individuals and small firms that use Amazon.com’s web site to sell their goods, Amazon.com has completely cut off its “affiliates” in those states. According to the Seattle Times, “Amazon has ended affiliate relationships in North Carolina, Rhode Island and Colorado,” and is currently threatening to do the same in California.

In addition to Amazon.com’s argument that its “distribution centers” do not represent a legal “physical presence” where they are located, Amazon.com also tries to push governments to give it an advantage over its competitors in exchange for locating some of its operations in a state. In the case of the state of Tennessee, as described by the Seattle Times, even after its government officials offered Amazon.com “free land, job-training assistance and more than $12 million in property-tax breaks” in exchange for building a distribution hub there, Amazon.com is still reportedly insisting that the state grant the facility a sales tax exemption. In South Carolina, a right to work state that is not averse to giving tax breaks to corporations, even the politicians and populace may have reached a limit to what they are willing to give Amazon.com, and are currently debating whether it really makes sense to give it a special sales tax advantage over corporations such as Walmart and Best-Buy.

Like many large U.S. corporations in the news lately, Amazon.com uses complicated tax write-off schemes and balancing between its domestic and international divisions to pay only a fraction of the corporate income tax rate in the U.S.. So that while Amazon.com technically owed the U.S. Treasury $852 million on its profits between 2008 and 2010, it paid only $176 million after it had made all of its deductions. That left it paying well below the 35 percent corporate tax rate for U.S. corporations.

https://blog.seattlepi.com/trevorgriffey/2011/04/03/top-10-reasons-to-avoid-amazon-com/