Amazon Pledges $1 Million More in Heated Seattle Elections

Matt Day

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is reaching into its deep pockets in an effort to make Seattle more business-friendly, pledging an additional $1 million to a corporate-backed group ahead of next month’s contentious city council elections.

The contribution disclosed on Tuesday brings Amazon’s donations this election cycle to the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) to $1.45 million, and likely cements the company’s status as the biggest spender in its hometown’s elections. The splurge marks a dramatic change for the e-commerce giant, which largely avoided city politics for most of its 25 years, even as it grew into Seattle’s largest employer and contributed to a boom that brought about rapidly rising housing costs, snarled traffic and a homelessness crisis.

“We are contributing to this election because we care deeply about the future of Seattle,” Amazon spokesman Aaron Toso said in an emailed statement. “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.”

Amazon’s relationship with city hall was a focus of heated debate last year around a proposed tax on large businesses to fund services for the homeless. The city council passed -- and then, under pressure from a business-backed repeal effort, rescinded -- the so-called head tax after Amazon paused construction planning on a piece of its corporate campus and threatened to back out of a lease for a major downtown skyscraper. Amazon would later confirm its intent to sublease that building anyway.

Seven of Seattle’s nine city council seats are up for election this year.

Socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant, who sought to link Amazon to the tax and has made calls to tax the company a fixture of her reelection campaign, faces a competitive race in the Nov. 5 general election. Egan Orion, a community leader from Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, is backed by CASE and individual contributions from more than a dozen Amazon executives.

Amazon’s latest commitment makes the company the biggest spender so far this election cycle, according to CASE, topping the $855,000 spent by a group affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. mazon this year has also hosted and sponsored city council candidate forums, and contributed $400,000 to a campaign to defeat a ballot measure that would cut Washington state car-tab taxes at the expense of transportation projects.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matt Day in Seattle at mday63@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Molly Schuetz, Robin Ajello

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