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27 Dec, 2020 13:48

Brother of Biden’s top aide takes Amazon lobbying job, as president-elect packs government with tech industry players

Brother of Biden’s top aide takes Amazon lobbying job, as president-elect packs government with tech industry players

Joe Biden has staffed his transition team with a host of former Silicon Valley players, and now a brother of his top White House aide has landed a lobbying gig with Amazon. Can Biden be trusted to rein in big tech?

Jeff Richetti, the brother of Joe Biden’s White House counsellor Steve Richetti, has landed a lobbying job with Amazon Web Services, CNBC reported on Saturday. According to documents seen by the news outlet, Richetti registered as a lobbyist for the e-commerce giant’s cloud services division on November 13, the same day TV networks called the election in Biden’s favor, after a trickle of late-arriving ballots put the former vice president ahead of Donald Trump in a number of key swing states.

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CNBC’s sources reassured readers that Jeff Richetti’s work as a lobbyist wouldn’t influence Steve and, in turn, Biden.

“Jeff has never and will never lobby his brother on behalf of any of his clients, and Steve has had no role in his brother’s business since he sold his stake in the firm in 2012,” the source reportedly said. “Steve and Jeff keep their professional activities distinctly separate.”

Yet some readers were left unconvinced, with reporter Patrick Howley calling the “globalist” Biden administration “an alliance between [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos and the multinational corporate class and the politicians who have no clue what is going on but just want money.”

Biden spoke little on the campaign trail about restricting the growing power of big tech. He mentioned back in May that Amazon and its ilk “should start paying their taxes,” and spoke more than a year ago about wanting to revoke Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields social media companies from legal liability for content posted on their platforms, but has since been quiet on the topic, while President Donald Trump has made it a rallying cry.

However, any voters expecting Biden to crack down on Silicon Valley once in office are likely to be disappointed. While House Democrats grilled the ‘Big Four’ tech executives this summer and unveiled plans to break up their monopolies in October, the tech industry and the Biden administration are heavily invested in each other.

Biden’s agency review teams – who ensure the smooth transition of power across all departments of the government – are packed with tech industry figures, according to a list released last month.

Among them are names from Amazon, Airbnb, Lyft, LinkedIn, Google, Uber, Stripe, Dell, and Twitter. Representatives from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s private foundation, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are on board, along with a number of pro-tech advocates and think-tank heads.

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Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, is also an accomplished adviser to big tech, and a believer in deferring to the tech industry even on matters unrelated to technology. For example, when confronting the coronavirus pandemic – one of Biden’s key campaign messages, Klain said last month that he’d listen to Microsoft CEO and vaccine advocate Bill Gates. “He's in a category by himself,” Klain said. “He is a global health leader, and so he stands alone.” 

Biden’s tech-friendly administration is not a radical departure from his last stint in the White House. While President Trump has railed against the US’ social media giants for their censorious policies, the Obama administration and Facebook regularly traded staff back and forth. The overlap of staff between the administration and Google too was described by critics as a “revolving door.” 55 Google employees landed jobs in Obama’s government, while 197 Obama alumni went on to work for Google.

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