Seattle officials push back against Amazon’s $1.5M election donation

Oct 17, 2019, 5:53 PM
Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks at a protest after the tech company donated $1.5 million to a PAC aimed at Seattle elections. (Hanna Scott, KIRO Radio) District 4 Seattle council candidate Shaun Scott speaks at a protest after the tech company donated $1.5 million to a PAC aimed at Seattle elections. (Hanna Scott, KIRO Radio) A protest in front of the Amazon Spheres after the tech company donated $1.5 million to a PAC aimed at Seattle elections. (Hanna Scott, KIRO Radio) An Amazon employee speaks at a protest after the tech company donated $1.5 million to a PAC aimed at Seattle elections. (Hanna Scott, KIRO Radio)

City officials and activists gathered at the base of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters Thursday morning, protesting the level of money the tech company has contributed to the upcoming general election.

Which Seattle candidates made the list of tech company endorsements?

“When billionaires are on the attack, what do we do?” shouted Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

“Stand up, fight back!” the crowd chanted back.

“If you are fed up that your lives suck so badly, proudly embrace the struggle we are in,” she said to a crowd of supporters in front of the Amazon Spheres in Seattle’s South Lake Union tech hub.

News broke this week that Amazon’s donations to the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) total $1.5 million. CASE is a politically-active arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. It endorses Seattle City Council candidates, and is putting its financial resources towards advertisements and other efforts to weigh in on the Nov. 5 election.

CASE responds

Responding to Thursday’s protest, CASE released the following statement:

Today’s press conference is just another example of the toxic, divisive tactics of the current Seattle City Council. Businesses stepped up on ST3, the Housing Levy renewal, and the Families Education, Preschools and Promise Levy. This year, we are doing the same to defend ST3 and expand economic opportunity in our state.”

However, once the business community highlighted the need for change and a functioning Seattle City Council, our contributions suddenly became an issue. The hypocrisy is disappointing but to be expected from the status quo.

CASE further points to the level of other financial contributions to local politics, which the protesters do not address. For example, labor groups have funneled $2,432,230 toward Seattle elections, SCC Insight reports. CASE also notes that the business community has also spent millions on causes the protesters support, such as $2,421,682 to the campaign to reject Tim Eyman’s I-976.

Protesting big business

Thursday’s protest in reaction to Amazon and CASE’s involvement was backed by local Democrats and progressives, and even some Amazon workers. Council members and current candidates slammed Amazon’s spending. They accused the company and the PAC it’s donating to of trying to buy the election.

“They are going to spend a pittance of their money to defend their right to not have to be treated fairly and not have to pay fair taxes to this city,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “And that is disgusting.”

Amazon makes case for how it’s helped Seattle

O’Brien argued that the City Council has created a prosperous city that has only benefited companies like Amazon.

Among other things, the protesters called on voters to reject candidates backed by big business and to support a proposal from Councilmember Lorena Gonzáles that aims to limit corporate PAC donations.

“We are not selling out the Seattle City Council and our democracy to the highest corporate bidder,” González said.

The Demonstration was organized by King County Democrats, as well as Democrats from the 43rd, 36th, and 37th legislative districts. Participating speakers at the event included: Scott Alspach, 43rd LD Democrats Chair; Mike O’Brien, Seattle City Council member (D6); Tammy Morales, Seattle City Council candidate for D2; Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member and candidate for D3; Shaun Scott, Seattle City Council candidate for D4; and Summer Stinson, 36th LD Democrats Policy Director.

KIRO Radio reporter Hanna Scott contributed to this article.

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Seattle officials push back against Amazon’s $1.5M election donation