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January 27, 2015

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Vice presidential candidate could be governor of state that strikes deal with Amazon

Follow the trail Amazon has made across the country as it works out deals to pay sales tax, and it might look as if the online retail giant is working as the advance team to vet Mitt Romney’s potential running mates.

Amazon has reached agreements to voluntarily collect sales tax in seven states, including Nevada. Six of those states are run by prominent Republican governors.

Those governors include Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Nikki Haley of South Carolina — each of them have at one time been named as potential vice president material. So has Gov. Brian Sandoval.

It’s unclear what, if any, strategy the company is employing to decide which states it will voluntarily collect taxes in. We’re just toying with the Romney connection.

Amazon officials would not comment for this article, and Sandoval’s administration has been mum about the deal, citing confidentiality of tax agreements.

But it’s notable, in part, because the Republican governors have reached deals to collect a tax that many Republican lawmakers — as well as the party’s apparent nominee — oppose.

Click to enlarge photo

Gov. Brian Sandoval

Some states, like Nevada, have distribution centers and other physical connections to Amazon’s business. Other states, like Texas, have threatened lawsuits or legislation to compel the online retailer to start collecting the tax.

But there’s also a federal political aspect involved.

The support of Republican governors could provide cover for Republicans in the U.S. Senate, who are seen as the key to getting the bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act, passed.

As part of the announcement, Sandoval agreed to work with Amazon to pass federal legislation to allow states to collect sales tax from online purchases.

“The only way to completely resolve this issue is for Congress to enact legislation that, within a simplified nationwide framework, grants states the right to require collection by all sellers,” Sandoval said in a statement.

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports legislation in the U.S. Senate, called the Main Street Fairness Act, Nevada’s Republican senator, Dean Heller, opposes it.

“Sen. Heller does not support imposing a federal Internet sales tax mandate,” his office said in a statement.

Politico reports that Amazon has come out in favor of the Marketplace Fairness Act, introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

Besides Nevada, the states governed by Republicans that have reached agreements with Amazon are Tennessee, Texas, Indiana, Virginia and South Carolina.

Then there’s California, led by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat. When that agreement was struck, the state had passed legislation forcing Amazon to collect the taxes, and Amazon had proposed a ballot referendum.

Brown, it should be noted, has not been mentioned as a potential running mate for Romney.

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