Paul Ryan under fire over Amazon treatment

A watchdog organization is filing an ethics complaint against Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (R-Wis.) for what it says is unfair treatment from online retail giant Amazon.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) alleged Wednesday that the Budget Committee chairman's new book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea, received special treatment after he criticized the Web company’s standoff with publishing company Hachette.


Ryan’s book is published by Hachette. Like many other books published by the company, Amazon had been making the book more difficult to find, delaying deliveries and not offering the option to pre-order it before the August publishing date. The online retailer and publishing company are fighting over the pricing of e-books.

In a CNBC interview in August, Ryan accused Amazon of “making a kind of power play here, in my opinion," against his publisher.

As a lawmaker, Ryan added, he needed to watch what he said "for ethical reasons.”

“If I were just a private citizen, I would voice just one straight opinion, but since I’m a member of Congress and a policymaker, I’m going to withhold from making comment,” he said, after being asked a follow-up question about whether regulators needed to step in.

Shortly after those comments, Amazon made his book easier to find in its online store and is now offering a 25 percent discount.

For CREW — which has been criticized for targeting Republicans and is bringing on Media Matters head David Brock as board chairman — that amounts to a gift that would violate House ethics rules.

“Amazon won’t sell J.K. Rowling’s latest fiction, but is happy to promote Paul Ryan’s tome on conservatism? Obviously, something other than potential sales is driving this decision,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement. “The Office of Congressional Ethics should immediately investigate.”

Amazon does sell Rowling's latest books, though some buyers have reported problems getting them as quickly as other books.

A Ryan spokesman denied that ethics rules had been violated.

“All activities related to the book were done in compliance with House rules,” spokesman Robert Swift said in an email to The Hill.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.

This story was last updated at 2:27 p.m.