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Amazon contributes over $1 million in bid to shape Seattle council races

(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

In hopes of influencing Seattle’s City Council races, Amazon recently donated $1.05 million to the Civil Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), a political group that advocates on behalf of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

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In a written statement published on Geekwire, the company cited its motivation to effect change across Seattle’s seven council races.

“We are contributing to this election because we care deeply about the future of Seattle,” said Amazon spokesperson Aaron Toso. “We believe it is critical that our hometown has a city council that is focused on pragmatic solutions to our shared challenges in transportation, homelessness, climate change and public safety.”

Amazon had previously given the organization $400,000. It’s most recent contribution runs the total to $1.45 million in donations to CASE.

“Amazon is the city’s largest employer, they care deeply about the future of this city, and they’re investing to make sure voters understand the choices in front of them,” CASE Executive Director Markham McIntyre told MyNorthwest.

CASE-endorsed candidates made it out of the August primaries in all seven council districts in Seattle. Leading up to the primary, it had spent nearly three times more than the next highest spending independent political action committee. All that has functioned as part of a larger plan to support more moderate, business-friendly candidates.

“We think that the candidates we’re supporting would be excellent additions to city council, [and] they care deeply about the city, and making progress on issues like transportation, housing affordability, and homelessness,” McIntyre said.

CASE has also fielded sizable donations from a handful of other local companies, including $130,000 from Vulcan, $50,000 from Expedia, $20,000 from Puget Sound Energy, and $15,000 from Boeing.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant recently spoke out against Amazon’s role in the upcoming council election.

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“Big business in Seattle is carrying out an unprecedented assault of corporate PAC money against socialist and progressive candidates in this year’s elections,” she penned in an op-ed on CounterPunch.

And while Amazon continues to pour money into Seattle’s council races, a presidential candidate is targeting the company with a recently-released plan for corporate accountability.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke out against Amazon in a plan to address corporate taxation, appearing to — at least in passing — reference the head tax controversy from 2018.

“These large corporations are also able to create laws that benefit them, as we’ve seen with companies like Amazon fight to pay no taxes in the communities where they operate,” Sanders said in a news release.

Another political organization, Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (CAPE) responded to news of Amazon’s donations Tuesday. CAPE released the following statement:

One of the richest corporations in the world just invested an unprecedented amount of money to attempt a hostile takeover of Seattle’s local government. Amazon knows it can’t win by fighting Seattle’s record of helping working families with a $15 minimum wage, paid sick days, and secure scheduling, especially since it just cut health coverage promised to all of its Seattle grocery workers, and paid $0.00 in federal income tax last year. Now a huge corporation is funneling exorbitant amounts of money to the Chamber of Commerce to buy our democracy. This isn’t just about Seattle, it’s about the 2020 national elections. Amazon is warning presidential candidates who say they share Seattle’s values that it will stop at nothing to protect its power and profits.

CAPE is funded by SEIU 775 Quality Care Committee, SEIU Local 925 Public Service PAC, UNITE HERE Local 8, UFCW 21 PAC, and Nick Hanauer.

Sawant’s opponent in the District 3 race, Egan Orion, also released a statement about Amazon’s donations:

I entered this race because District 3 residents deserve a voice in City Hall, and I have built my campaign around Democracy vouchers, in-district donations, and doorbelling—while my opponent has rejected vouchers in favor of a massive out of state fundraising effort. The influx of PAC money in City politics this year is completely out of scale with the grassroots campaign myself and many others are trying to run, and is proving to be a distraction from the real issues. A lot of this spending is clearly driven by a frustration felt across the city—from seniors and young renters to unions and businesses large and small, that we need change on the City Council. If elected, I will absolutely pursue policies to limit outside spending and bring balance to our civic elections.

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