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Amazon executive Jay Carney to join Airbnb as policy and PR head

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·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Special Report AMAZON-INDIA/OPERATION
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By Jeffrey Dastin

(Reuters) -Jay Carney, the Amazon.com Inc executive who vastly expanded the retailer's lobbying and public affairs efforts after a stint as White House press secretary, is joining Airbnb Inc to tackle challenges for the home rental startup from Washington.

Carney will report to Airbnb's CEO Brian Chesky, the company said on Friday.

In more than seven years at Amazon, Carney pioneered a more aggressive approach as the company's first-ever senior vice president of global corporate affairs.

He persuaded his boss, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to let him criticize media reporting in public, grew the company's lobbying and policy headcount from two dozen employees to around 250 and oversaw a program dubbed "watering the flowers" to cultivate a "well-tended garden" of politicians through donations and site tours.

And he pushed back against U.S. senators who criticized Amazon for issues including workplace conditions https://twitter.com/jaycarney/status/1376969678896107523?lang=en and tax payments https://twitter.com/jaycarney/status/1377339926035972107, as regulatory scrutiny of the company has mounted.

In an email Friday, seen by Reuters, Carney told colleagues at Amazon he was grateful to have worked at "an organization that mattered and had positive impact." An Airbnb press release quoted Carney as saying, "The potential for travel to promote economic and social good has never been greater."

Carney's public-policy lieutenants at Amazon will report to General Counsel David Zapolsky, and top communications officer Drew Herdener will report to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy while the online retailer seeks Carney's replacement, Jassy said in an email to his senior leadership team, seen by Reuters.

Carney had worked to ensure "policymakers, reporters and customers are all accurately informed about Amazon’s contributions to economic growth, job creation, innovation and sustainability," Jassy said.

Airbnb's high-profile hire comes as the San Francisco-based startup has largely grown its lobbying expenditures in the past five years, according to OpenSecrets data.

Airbnb disclosed this week, in a report companies must file to Congress quarterly, that it recently lobbied on digital services taxes, data privacy, housing policy, tourism and refugees.

In January, U.S. lawmakers raised concern about the company's business activities in China's Xinjiang region.

Prior to Amazon, Carney served as communications director for Joe Biden, when Biden was vice president, and as press secretary for President Barack Obama. He was a reporter earlier in his career.

He joins Airbnb as Global Head of Policy and Communications in September and will be based in Washington, the company said.

(Reporting by Akash Sriram in Bengaluru, Jeffrey Dastin in New York, Diane Bartz and Chris Sanders in Washington; Editing by Shailesh Kuber, Elaine Hardcastle, Kirsten Donovan)