After No Regulatory Enforcement On Big Tech And Silicon Valley Under Obama, Bezos Sends $100M To Obama Foundation

After No Regulatory Enforcement On Big Tech And Silicon Valley Under Obama, Bezos Sends $100M To Obama Foundation

Bezos Obama

After No Regulatory Enforcement On Big Tech And Silicon Valley Under Obama, Bezos Sends $100M To Obama Foundation. First lady Michelle Obama hugs Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com during an event in the White House, May 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Amazon billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos has donated $100 million to the Barack Obama Foundation, which is building a presidential library on the South Side of Chicago. The size of the gift is raising fresh questions about Obama’s close ties to Silicon Valley during his eight years as president and what some see as a lack of regulatory enforcement of Big Tech on his watch.

The Chicago-based Obama Foundation has raised $720 million from donors toward its $1.6 billion goal for the library, a museum and headquarters offices.

Bezos’ donation is the first one big enough to earn naming rights, and he wants the public plaza at the Obama Presidential Center to be named the John Lewis Plaza, in honor of the late congressman and civil rights icon. “Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis,” Bezos said in a statement.

Obama’s first executive order in 2009 required the U.S. government to use technology to become more transparent. Towards that goal, Obama attracted Silicon Valley veterans to Washington, D.C. When Obama’s two terms were up, many of those tech veterans returned to the private sector and became lobbyists — so much so, that the Obama White House has been accused of being a revolving door for tech lobbyists. The close ties helped Obama’s campaigns with donations.

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Students of politics need to know that private foundations are influence playgrounds for Big Tech, tweeted The Moguldom Nation founder and CEO Jamarlin Martin. “Influence $ on the books seems small but the swamp lobbying off the books, in STEALTH, is LARGE. That’s why lobbyist David Plouffe is on the board Zuckerberg & Obama Foundations.”

Widely considered the architect of Obama’s presidential campaign victories, David Plouffe served as a presidential senior advisor through Obama’s reelection before applying his campaign strategies to Silicon Valley. Plouffe became the senior vice president of policy and strategy for Uber in 2014. He described his job at Uber as analogous to his role as Obama’s campaign manager and adviser. In 2017, Plouffe joined Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to lead policy and advocacy. CZI began as an initiative rather than strictly a charitable organization so it could participate in political lobbying, make donations and invest in startups. In 2019, Plouffe joined the board of directors of Acronym, a nonprofit focused on digital messaging.

During Obama’s eight years in office, Big Tech expanded and Silicon Valley boomed, with companies valued in the billions, including Facebook, Uber, Snapchat, Palantir and Dropbox, New York Times reported. Obama was America’s first truly digital president. His 2008 campaign relied heavily on social media, led in part by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who left the startup to join Obama’s strategy team.

But Obama also had a less attractive tech legacy. His administration failed to successfully manage surveillance, Think Progress reported. Obama advocated for the consumer data that tech companies collect to be made available to the police and spy agencies. His executive orders boosted surveillance programs and he enacted laws without the public knowing details.

“Remember when Obama gave a major ‘jobs speech’ in front of an Amazon warehouse the same week a big expose dropped about sweatshop conditions in Amazon warehouses? It’s a big club, and we’re not in it,” tweeted Memes™ w Cranberry Sauce.

READ MORE: Amazon Is Hiring ‘Intelligence Analysts’ For Surveillance Against Employees Trying To Organize Protests And Labor Unions

Obama administration officials dismissed substantial evidence a decade ago that Google was building a monopoly, missing an opportunity to rein in the company when it still had viable competition. Instead, appointed politicians overruled Obama Justice Department recommendations to sue Google over its push to take over mobile internet searches, according to hundreds of pages of internal Federal Trade Commission (FTC) memos obtained by Politico.

Obama has been criticized for a conflict of interest over his long friendship with Eric Schmidt, who was CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011 and its executive chairman from 2011 to 2015. Schmidt was a campaign adviser in Obama’s presidential runs and led big donations from the tech industry.

“It’s not proper for the Democrats to be so boo’d up w/ the Big Tech monopolies,” Martin tweeted. “Bezos is not out there kissing Jill Biden, buying the Washington Post, or gifting Obama foundation b/c he has a good heart. America has weakening checks & balances, spinning her into a corrupt wobble.”

Bezos has been increasingly preoccupied with the overlapping worlds of activism and entertainment after stepping back from Amazon in 2020, Theodore Schleifer wrote for Puck News: “A hefty donation to the former president’s foundation thus greases Bezos’ entry into Obama-world, and to the Democratic establishment more broadly. Emeritus status in the American elite means both men are now free to rub shoulders without the whiff of scandal.”

Lawyer and Lehman Brothers whistleblower Oliver Budde opined about the huge Bezos donation to the Obama Foundation. “Not a donation, a payoff” Budde tweeted. “And on @BarackObama’s watch, how many multiples of $100 million in sales taxes did Amazon not charge and collect, stiffing the states and gaining unfair advantage over all those fuddy duddy businesses that did charge the tax the law required?”

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