Jeff Bezos. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
As news broke yesterday that Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos has dipped into his personal fortune to buy The Washington Post and several Post-related media properties, there has been buzz about Bezos’s potential political agenda.
His record seems to suggest that Bezos is socially liberal, but economically conservative. He has contributed to both Republicans and Democrats, from John Conyers (D-MI) to Slade Gorton (R-WA); donated to the libertarian Reason Foundation; provided $2.5 million to pass gay marriage in Washington State; as well as $100,000 to defeat a modest effort to create an upper income tax in Washington State.
Others have scrutinized Bezos’s record at Amazon to predict his management of the Post. At The New Yorker, David Remnick says that under Bezos Amazon has “demonstrated itself to be ‘a First Amendment absolutist’ when it comes to the sale of controversial books (including Mein Kampf’) and an unwillingness to censor reader comments.” Others are less optimistic, particularly when it comes to Amazon’s lobbying and labor record.
The most troubling part of Amazon’s record, as it might relate to Bezos’ ownership of the Post, is Amazon’s December 2010 decision to shut down WikiLeaks’s server access after the group published a trove of State Department cables. Robert McChesney, citing Amazon’s move to pull the plug on WikiLeaks, released a statement today condemning the sale.
There’s one area where Bezos has been hyper-active, but it is largely unknown to the general public: education reform. A look at the Bezos Family Foundation, which was founded by Jackie and Mike Bezos but is financed primarily by Jeff Bezos, reveals a fairly aggressive effort in recent years to press forward with a neoliberal education agenda:
• The Bezos Foundation has donated to Education Reform Now, a nonprofit organization that funds attack advertisements against teachers’ unions and other advocacy efforts to promote test-based evaluations of teachers. Education Reform Now also sponsors Democrats for Education Reform.