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Amazon Hires Senior Senate Aide, Boosting Efforts to Stymie New Tech Antitrust Bill

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(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. hired a senior Republican congressional aide, bolstering its efforts to stymie a new antitrust bill aimed at US technology companies, according to two people familiar with the hire.

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Judd Smith was the Senate Judiciary Committee’s counsel as the panel wrote and approved a bill that would restrict the way Amazon can offer products to consumers and interact with its competitors. His move to Amazon, the e-commerce giant that has been vilified by lawmakers for its market dominance, will play into efforts to ensure that the legislation doesn’t receive a vote in the full Senate. By hiring him, Amazon is bringing in a powerful voice on the top issues facing the committee.

Smith helped negotiate changes to the legislation as he worked with Republican offices to push the bill forward, according to two other people familiar with his work. Smith was the lead antitrust aide for Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, one of the original Republican cosponsors of the bill, according to one of the people.

While Smith will be barred from lobbying Senate Judiciary staff and members for a year after his departure from the committee, he could be influential in convincing House Republicans to vote against the measure if it passes the Senate. Smith previously worked with former Pennsylvania Representative Tom Marino, who was the top Republican on the subcommittee responsible for antitrust.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would prohibit major online platforms like Amazon, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc., and Apple Inc. from giving advantages to their own products over those of rivals. The bill’s sponsors and its advocates had pushed Senate leadership to take up the measure before lawmakers leave for a four-week summer break.

The House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee has advanced a similar bill aimed at concentration in the internet economy. The House and Senate would have to pass the same version of the bill for President Joe Biden to sign it into law.

Smith will join the public policy team with Amazon Web Services to help lobby Republicans, said two of the people. All four of the people asked not to be identified discussing an internal decision.

Amazon and Smith didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar has led efforts to get the bill on the Senate floor, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate won’t have time to take it up this week before the August recess.

(Updates with additional details beginning in the third paragraph)

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