Amazon has just donated a total of $1.45 million this year alone to local Seattle politics. The online retail giant has now spent more money on the council races than any other corporation or union in Seattle history. The once-sleeping giant is now attempting to put Seattle’s politics into its cart. Before Amazon, the largest contribution by a single corporation or PAC was by Vulcan with $108,000 which is 14 times smaller than Amazon’s recent contribution. Its currently three times more than any union.
“We are contributing to this election because we care deeply about the future of Seattle,” Amazon spokesman Aaron Toso said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
One week ago, Amazon had only contributed $400,000 to the super PAC Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE). They were using the money to pay for direct mail ads and canvassers in conflict districts like the district three race between democratic socialist Kshama Sawant and moderate Egan Orion.
Another PAC in the area reported spending $868,000 while trying to boot out union-friendly and anti-labor candidates. To do that they have been making single independent donations to back candidates against incumbent candidates Kshama Sawant and Lisa Herbold. Sawant and Herbold were among those who proposed to create a head tax which would have created a per-employee tax on corporations in the city of Seattle. The head tax would have raised millions of dollars that would have been put towards ending the homeless crisis here in Seattle.
11 out of 18 executives on Bezos’ “S-Team” have shown personal interest in Seattle’s city council races by making personal donations to candidates and PACs.
Amazon’s unprecedented donation has brought national attention to Seattle’s city council race. Elizbeth Warren tweeted on the 19th, “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. Corporations aren’t people, and I have a plan to get big money out of politics.”
Since the announcement of Amazon’s monolithic donation, donations for Sawant, the socialists in the third district have been skyrocketing with 330 more individual donations from across the country. She now has 5,760 individual donors, two times more than any other candidate in the race.
Amazon has been exploiting the Citizens United decision to get around campaign finance law. When an Amazon executive makes a donation they will pay up to the maximum allowed for individuals. Then funnel the rest of their donation through a super PAC who will back the candidate they want.
In 2018, money being donated from Super PACs reached a peak at over a billion dollars. The Seattle City Council race is emblematic of a trend that has been in American politics for a long time. Since the Reagan administration, corporations have been slowly attempting to seize the democratic system. The Seattle City Council race is the first time in a while where the corporate underbelly of our election system has been shown. In my opinion, it has made people realize just how much their vote really counts.