Seattle, like most metro regions in the U.S., has an elected city council. Of its nine seats, seven are up for grabs this November. I’ll give you exactly one guess as to where the race’s single largest contribution is coming from, with the caveat that any guess other than “Amazon” is incorrect.
Yes, the very rich company run by the very richest man has so far poured $2 million into flipping the composition of the fairly progressive Seattle City Council towards more business-friendly alternatives. Amazon hasn’t turned the money faucet on for individual campaigns — which have a $740 individual donation limit — instead funnelling its cash through The Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, a political action committee associated with the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
As Geekwire reports, the second-place donor — relatively moderate organised labour group Service Employees International Union — racked up just over half Amazon’s contribution amount, at $US855,000 ($1,265,945).
Amazon’s deepening involvement in local politics comes at the heels of two important scuffles. Closest to home was its successful fight to repeal the so-called “head tax” passed by the City Council, which would have held large companies like Amazon responsible for paying into social programs to alleviate the widespread homelessness in the region. Amazon deployed astroturf campaigns and even reportedly held a construction project hostage until it got its way.
The second, of course, is the spate of antitrust probes being launched by various government agencies, as well as a coalition of 50 attorneys general, into the tech sector’s monopoly power. It does no favours for Amazon to be fighting whatever comes of those probes while pushing against hostile legislators on its home turf.
Worryingly, as Amazon ups its spending on lobbying at home and in DC (also the site of its forthcoming second headquarters), it’s worth recalling that the company is making a big push into providing the very infrastructure that undergirds elections across the country. Even when they lose, they win!
Bottomless resources haven’t helped Amazon in at least one instance: its ill-fated attempt to place a headquarters in New York City. Despite intense lobbying, and no shortage of annoying mailers to future neighbours of the development, the retail behemoth cut and ran after pressure from grassroots activists, trade unions and New York’s City Council grew too great. Come November, we’ll see if Seattle has the same resilience despite facing longer odds.