Report: Walmart and Oracle among secret funders behind ‘grassroots’ campaign to blast Amazon

Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. (GeekWire Photo)

Peruse through the social media feed and website of the Free Fair Markets Initiative, and it’s clear that the “nonprofit watchdog” has Amazon in its crosshairs.

What’s not so clear is that the so-called “grassroots” campaign has the financial support of Walmart, Oracle, and mall owner Simon Property Group — three of Amazon’s biggest rivals across industries such as retail and cloud computing.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday morning that those three companies are secret funders behind the campaign, which has blasted Amazon’s business practices — including its treatment of warehouse workers; its use of personal data; its lack of support for local communities; and more — since launching last year.

“Concerned consumers, business owners and taxpayers are coming together to stand up to the harmful business practices of Amazon and demand that the company does its fair share in our local communities, for their employees and everyday Americans. The Free Fair Markets Initiative is their unified voice,” reads the description of a YouTube video posted by the group.

Free Fair Markets Initiative tweeted more than 300 times about Amazon’s HQ2 project, WSJ reported, and this week it called Amazon’s climate change announcement “nothing more than greenwashing.”

Free Fair Markets has kept its funders secret and falsely claimed that average citizens support the group, the WSJ reported. It’s run by communications firm Marathon Strategies, which reportedly asked for $250,000 per company to fund the anti-Amazon campaign.

The story reflects the lengths that companies are willing to go to help curb Amazon’s market share. It’s also an example of mounting pressure on Amazon from similar groups and lawmakers who are questioning the company’s growing footprint and power.

A spokesperson for Oracle told the WSJ that it contributed to Free Fair Markets. We’ve reached out to Amazon, Walmart, and Oracle for comment, and will update this story when we hear back. Update: An Amazon spokesperson said that the WSJ story “speaks for itself.” Amazon also provided this statement to the WSJ:

“The Free Fair Markets Initiative appears to be little more than a well-oiled front group run by a high-priced public affairs firm and funded by self-interested parties with the sole objective of spreading misinformation about Amazon.”

And here’s a tweet from Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos retweeted the tweet.

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