Amazon Is Helping to Fund a Militia That Stormed the Capitol

Amazon is letting anyone donate a portion of their purchases to the Oath Keepers, a rightwing militia group, using AmazonSmile.
January 20, 2021, 2:00pm
An angry mob storms the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021
ROBERTO SCHMIDT / Contributor

Amazon is allowing customers to donate a portion of eligible purchases to the Indiana chapter of the Oath Keepers, a far-right extremist group implicated in the storming of the Capitol by federal prosecutors

The Indiana Oath Keepers’ website has a support page that lists ways to help the group. One of those methods is via AmazonSmile, a charitable program that lets users set a charity of choice and donate 0.5 percent of purchases to that group. The Indiana Oath Keepers site advises visitors on how to set the extremist group as the charitable option and to bookmark the AmazonSmile site for all future purchases. The site notes that a charitable program at Kroger’s grocery chain can also be used to support the group.

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AmazonSmile’s support of the armed militia group was noticed by activist organization Sleeping Giants in a tweet on Tuesday. Motherboard was able to successfully add the Indiana Oath Keepers as an AmazonSmile charity. On Amazon, the Oath Keepers are listed as being an “Other Public Safety, Disaster Preparedness, and Relief N.E.C.”

Spokespeople for Amazon were not immediately available to comment. 

The Oath Keepers are an armed militia group, composed primarily of former police officers and veterans who, according to FBI affidavits, “believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights." Over the past week, prosecutors have begun levying significant charges at prominent members of the militia, accusing them of participating in or "planning and coordinating" the Capitol riot. Other members have also been arrested and charged, while communications obtained by the FBI suggest the Oath Keepers sought to gas lawmakers who were moved to the tunnels below the capital during the riot.

The militia was first founded in 2009 in response to Barack Obama’s election and has over the past decade joined land disputes with the federal government, put armed guards outside of a military recruiting center in Tennessee, and posted more armed guards outside of an Indiana high school despite complaints from the county's public school system. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) points out that over the years, the militia has created "Citizen Preservation" militias to ostensibly "defend Americans against the New World Order" but in reality "prey upon the fears and concerns of local communities and revitalize the American militia movement, all under the guise of neighborhood watch and self-sufficiency."

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This is not the first time something that  AmazonSmile has allowed customers to fund rightwing groups. In 2017, customers realized they could donate to Project Veritas—which bills itself as a nonprofit and an independent investigative unit but is better understood as a "coordinated disinformation campaign.” 

In 2019, Mother Jones found dozens of anti-LGBTQ groups identified by the SPLC that were able to raise funds on AmazonSmile. In a July 2020 congressional hearing, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that AmazonSmile used data from the SPLC and US Foreign Asset Office to determine which groups were extremist organizations or hate groups that would be ineligible for donations. The problem still seems to persist, however. In December 2020, NBC News found that dozens of anti-LGBTQ groups were still successfully skirting AmazonSmile's ban on hate groups. 

Amazon, like many companies, has taken some action against entities implicated in the storming of the Capitol. After Amazon Web Service employees organized and demanded the company stop hosting Parler—a social media network where extensive planning before the riot took place—the company removed the social network

Even in the aftermath of the attack and demands from employees, however, it seems platforms are dragging their feet on purging themselves of the very forces they’re busy condemning.