Amazon's $1.5M in Seattle Races May Have Backfired

Company drew criticism for spending to support business-friendly candidates
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 6, 2019 7:15 PM CST
Amazon's Spending in Seattle Council Races May Not Pay Off
Kshama Sawant speaks to her supporters Tuesday in Seattle.   (Genna Martin/ via AP)

Amazon poured $1.5 million into an effort to overhaul Seattle's City Council this year. It didn't deliver. Though many votes remain to be counted, early returns suggest the online retail giant and other business interests will have fewer obvious allies on the council than at any time in recent memory. In Amazon's liberal hometown, that could mean officials who are more willing to tax companies to address the city's homelessness crisis and transportation problems, the AP reports. It could also mean a council that's ready to rein in corporate spending in city elections. "On balance, this is not the City Council that Amazon or the Chamber of Commerce wanted to see," council member Lorena González, who was not up for re-election, said Wednesday.

Amazon gave to the political action committee of the local Chamber of Commerce, which supported seven candidates it perceived as more business-friendly. Former Mayor Mike McGinn noted that in 2010, seven of the nine council members were backed by the chamber. After this election, he said, the chamber is likely to have just two or three. "Amazon's spending helped unite and grow the left," McGinn said. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders accused Amazon of trying to buy the council. The number of individual donations to socialist council member Kshama Sawant, a fierce Amazon critic and target of its campaign spending, soared. Even her opponent, Egan Orion — a purported beneficiary of Amazon's spending — criticized it Tuesday. He said he knew voters who changed their votes to Sawant in response. If he does win, Orion said, he wants it to be on his own merits, without "the shadow of Amazon hanging over me."

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