Over the past decade, Amazon.com has become a retailing monster. The online goliath put untold numbers of small, independent stores out of business with the help of politicians who repeatedly refused to force the retailer to charge sales taxes like brick-and-mortar businesses must do. The unfair competitive advantage fueled Amazon's rapid growth and its political muscle. But then it found itself up against Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner and state Senator Loni Hancock, both of Berkeley. Skinner co-authored legislation to close Amazon's sales-tax loophole. And then after Governor Jerry Brown signed Skinner's bill, Hancock wrote legislation to block Amazon from putting the issue on the ballot. Hancock knew that Amazon was prepared to spend unlimited sums to overturn Skinner's legislation, so she enlisted the help of big-box retailers who weren't happy with Amazon's sales-tax exemption either. Last September, Amazon finally buckled, and this fall the retailing behemoth will, for the first time, start charging sales tax on purchases made by Californians, thereby reducing the company's ability to undercut mom-and-pop stores.