Amazon’s $1.5M Donation in the Seattle City Council Race Probably Not Enough to Affect the Outcome

It seems that a hefty Amazon donation to a super PAC wasn’t enough to affect the results of the Seattle City Council race.

The Seattle-based company donated nearly $1.5 million to a Metropolitan Seattle Chamber of Commerce–run super PAC. The PAC endorsed candidates for the seven seats up for grabs on the city’s nine-person council. Although the votes are still being tallied, it seems likely that the majority of the PAC-backed candidates will not win seats: Based on early results, only two or three Chamber-endorsed candidates will secure seats — down from five on the current council who won with the PAC’s endorsement.

Around $1 million of Amazon’s total donation came just weeks before the vote, leading to criticism from prominent liberal politicians, including current presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. (Both Sanders and Warren have advocated for stricter campaign finance laws that would prevent contributions of this kind.)

“Surprise: Amazon is trying to tilt the Seattle City Council elections in their favor. I’m with the Seattle council members and activists who continue standing up to Amazon,” Warren tweeted Oct. 19.

Sanders tweeted on election night: “Jeff Bezos and Amazon think they can buy elections…Show Amazon that they can’t buy our democracy and that their corporate greed won’t stand.”

Four years ago, Amazon gave $25,000 to the commerce chamber’s PAC toward that year’s election. In 2018, the e-tailer publicly squared off against the Seattle City Council, strongly disagreeing about a tax provision the council had approved.

In May 2018, the council okayed a measure to tax employees of large companies $275 each, with the goal of raising $48 million yearly for homeless services. The levy, which was largely embraced by community activists but viewed negatively by big Seattle businesses, became known as the “Amazon tax.” The proposal was walked back a month later, after Amazon said it would consider stopping to plan its expansion in Seattle.

Amazon has not replied to FN’s request for comment.

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