AmazonSmile generates donations for the Los Angeles Police Foundation, San Diego Police Foundation, and others. Amazon Program Raises Money for Police Departments While the Company Says ‘Black Lives Matter’
To the millions of shoppers who use Amazon, the company features a clear and concise statement on its homepage in support of ongoing protests in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd: “Black lives matter, Amazon stands in solidarity with the Black community.”
But the company has, in recent months, come under increased scrutiny for its own racial controversies and for its sale of surveillance tools to law enforcement. The company’s popular fundraising platform is also channeling money directly to police departments nationwide. As reported on Thursday by corporate watchdog group Eyes on the Ties, Amazon’s fundraising program AmazonSmile is being used to generate money for privately run foundations that solicit money on behalf of law enforcement across the country.
Launched in 2013, AmazonSmile allots 0.5% of every eligible purchase to participating nonprofits. To register for the program, organizations must submit an Employer Identification Number and banking information to AmazonSmile, which decides whether a nonprofit qualifies as a “registered organization” or charitable group to which Amazon customers may donate. Using GuideStar, a nonprofit database, AmazonSmile has preselected thousands of eligible charities, though not every organization on the list has registered for the program. The list includes Black Lives Matter, NAACP groups, and Copwatch, an activist network aimed at documenting police brutality. (Copwatch has not officially registered for AmazonSmile, however.) Amazon says it’s donated tens of millions of dollars to charity through the AmazonSmile Foundation, the 501(c)(3) private foundation that distributes these funds.
Not every group that meets those qualifications is welcome into the program, and Amazon has previously banned groups from AmazonSmile.
Some of these funds have made their way into the coffers of the Los Angeles Police Foundation, the San Diego Police Officers Association, and the National Police Foundation, which raise millions of dollars each year to supplement departmental budgets. In the same way that super PACs can obscure funding sources, these foundations can act as a middleman between corporate or private donors and police departments, allowing police to circumvent transparency processes around spending. As nonprofit organizations, these foundations qualify for Amazon’s charitable giving program.
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