David Di Martino on DC Industry Infighting


politicoBy Anna Palmer and Lauren French

Amazon Fights eBay Over Online Sales Tax

Amazon and eBay used to be allies in Washington, protecting their best competitive advantage — the right not to charge sales tax — from the forces of big box stores like Best Buy and old-school department stores like Macy’s.

But those days are over.

Amazon flipped — and now it’s fighting eBay in an all-out civil war in the Senate, where a bill to set national sales tax standards is up for debate. Amazon now says it’s OK to levy sales tax on Web companies. eBay still says, no way, and it’s trying to drum up the kind of online support that squashed a major privacy bill called SOPA last year.

It’s the best — or worst — kind of fight in the world of Washington influence: It’s going to be big, expensive and bitter.

“Other than members tweeting photos of their members, there is no greater spectacle in the public affairs arena than two marquee brands duking it out over policy that impacts their businesses,” said David DiMartino of Blue Engine Message & Media.”These fights produce a uniquely Washington experience — the weekly consultants meeting — where each side has assembled their own Mt. Rushmore of big-name consultants and lobbyists strategizing and sharing information.”

Recent past examples include the failed AT&T and T-Mobile merger, the Boeing and Airbus fight on Defense Department contracts and tech companies splintering over patent reform.

“Every industry has internal schisms from 30,000 feet you don’t see,” said Paul Equale, a veteran Democratic operative, noting the divide between and smaller banks in the too big to fail debate. “Because tech is relatively new, we have a tendency to always be amazed. The eBay-Amazon split, or difference in emphasis, on the sale tax goes back to the oldest axiom in politics — where you stand depends on where you sit.”

The fight is so divisive that The Internet Association, a trade group built to fight major battles for the industry, isn’t even taking a stance.

Complicating matters: the battle lines don’t even split along party lines.

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