'Alexa, send $20 to my favorite presidential candidate'

The service will begin next month and will work only for candidates who have chosen to participate


Reuters September 19, 2019
Prompts on how to use Amazon's Alexa personal assistant are seen alongside an Amazon Echo in an Amazon ‘experience center’ in Vallejo, California, US, May 8, 2018. Picture taken on May 8, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: Alexa Political Contributions, powered by Amazon Pay, the company’s payment system, will allow customers to contribute up to $200 to a campaign simply by saying “Alexa, donate to [candidate name],” according to a blog post from the world’s largest retailer.

The service will begin next month and will work only for candidates who have chosen to participate.

Amazon both unveiled the technology and invited candidates to sign up on Wednesday, according to a spokeswoman. It does not plan to report how many contributions flow through the service and did not consult with the Federal Election Commission in creating it, she said.

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Donors may send dollars only to principal campaign committees, not political action or independent expenditure groups.

The service is part of Amazon’s effort to become a center of election information. It is also updating Alexa with information about candidates, polls, endorsements, caucuses, policy stances, and key dates, with the help of nonpartisan organisations.

Amazon’s Echo device, which is how most users interact with the digital assistant, will command nearly two-thirds of the smart speaker market this year, according to research firm eMarketer.

Most Democratic presidential candidates, including front-runners Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, currently rely on the small-dollar donation platform Act Blue, with “Donate” buttons on their web sites taking contributors to secure pages run by the service for one-stop donating.

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Republican President Donald Trump, the Republican National Committee and the party’s committees for electing Republicans to the US Congress all use a similar platform WinRed for online fundraising.

In its announcement, Amazon emphasized that “Alexa herself does not have opinions on politics or candidates.”

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