Commentary

From POTUS To Bezos: Jay Carney Takes Influential Job At Amazon

Jay Carney has parlayed his stints as White House press secretary and director of communications for vice president Joe Biden into a top job at Amazon that will be equal parts communication and cajoling. Politico’s Mike Allen broke the news yesterday that Carney would begin his new job Monday as Amazon’s SVP for Worldwide Corporate Affairs, splitting his time between D.C. and Seattle. 

“The new position brings the e-commerce giant’s worldwide public relations and public policy shops into one department under Carney,” Allen writes.

Carney will report to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Paul Misener, who heads up Amazon's lobbying efforts as VP Global Public Policy, and Craig Berman, its VP of Communications, will now report to him. Amazon has confirmed the hire to numerous media but withheld additional comment, as is its wont.

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“Since leaving the White House in 2014, Carney has most frequently appeared as a talking head on CNN, where he was a paid political analyst and frequent defender of his former boss, President Obama,” writes Abby Phillip in the Washington Post, which Bezos bought in 2013. “But the position was always believed to be a temporary stopping point for the former Time journalist.”

“Last year, Carney was briefly rumored to be in the running to take over the PR operations at Apple with the departure of Katie Cotton,” Fortune’s Tom Huddleston, Jr. recalls.

Before entering the political arena, Carney, 49, had worked at Time for 20 years, serving at various times as its Moscow correspondent, White House correspondent, and Washington bureau chief. His wife, Claire Shipman, is currently the senior national correspondent for the ABC program “Good Morning America” and is co-author, with Katty Kay, of the “womenomics” book The Confidence Code.

“Hiring a Washington power-alley insider is hardly a surprise, given that Amazon and other big tech companies have been wrangling with lawmakers over Federal Aviation Administration drone regulations,” writes Marco della Cava in USA Today. “Bezos has made clear that he hopes to be able to use drones to deliver Amazon packages in the near future.” 

Other issues under scrutiny that he’ll be expected to keep tabs on including “warehousing, retailing, cloud computing and publishing,” Re/Code’s Jason Del Rey informs us. 

“Carney’s hiring also underscores something insiders have discussed for some time: Bezos has been unhappy with some of the negative storylines around Amazon over the last year and a half,” Del Rey adds. “Thanks to his lead White House role, Carney is no stranger to crisis communications.”

Carney’s transition to the world of corporate lobbying and communications follows as a pattern of tech companies “pouring money into lobbying as the industry seeks to extend its influence…,” points out the New York Times’ David Streitfeld.

“Uber, the fast-growing ride-hailing service, hired David Plouffe, who ran Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign. Susan Molinari, a former congresswoman, runs Google’s lobbying shop. Mark Penn, a veteran of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaigns, is at Microsoft. Lisa Jackson, Mr. Obama’s former Environmental Protection Agency chief, works for Apple.”

Indeed, it’s a good time to be connected to the ole boys network if you want to connect with the new boys network.

“West Coast tech start-ups had a hands-off attitude toward Washington for a long time,” Joanna Campione writes on Yahoo Finance. “It seems like they finally decided we just have to play in this game,” says Campione’s colleague, Rick Newman. “They want to turn things in their favor in Washington without a doubt.”

It’s a trend New York magazine’s Annie Lowrey dissects in “For Ex-Obama Officials, the Revolving Door Swings Open to Silicon Valley,” concluding: “The reputation is great. The industry is dynamic. The businesses are head-hunting. And the money's good. For former White House staffers, what's not to like?”

Certainly not its latest convert. Not only is Jay Carney “both lauded and liked…,” observesForbes contributor Kathleen Kusek, he also “is gifted in his ability to be at the vortex of change. Amazon is wise to snap him up in what is likely to be the beginning of an accelerating trend for corporate America to get savvy government insiders who can help translate Patriot Act fallout to maintaining and accelerating optimal online shopping experiences for the masses.”

And, presumably, to be more than just a droning head on drones.

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