Anti-Amazon ads ask: ‘Does this look like a company that needs taxpayer cash?’

A national organization for conservative millennials is launching a digital ad campaign opposing financial incentives in North Carolina and the other states that are finalists to land Amazon’s second headquarters.

Generation Opportunity advocates for free markets and economic policies that benefit their membership of 18- to 38-year-olds. It opposes using financial incentives to lure companies to states, and objects to the secretive nature of negotiations the enticements entail.

The group calls incentives “corporate welfare.” Republican and Democratic lawmakers in North Carolina have supported the state’s incentives programs because they bring jobs.

The ads will run on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which the organization sees as the digital platforms most likely to reach its target audience, according to a spokesman.

State chapters in North Carolina, Virginia and Texas have been especially vocal opposing incentives for Amazon, according to the group. The North Carolina chapter last year bought digital ads criticizing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Generation Opportunity is funded in part by the conservative financier Koch brothers.

“While small businesses and young entrepreneurs struggle, government cuts special deals with Amazon, a corporation that raked in $175 billion last year!” the ad says. “Does this look like a company that needs taxpayer cash?”

“It gets worse,” the ad continues with a photo of Cooper. “Americans have no idea how much their government is taking from them.”

“Unfair corporate welfare deals like the ones being lobbed at Amazon fuel cronyism, are conducted in darkness, and force small businesses to subsidize their competition,” Generation Opportunity policy director David Barnes said in a statement. “Instead of offering sweetheart deals to wealthy special interests that don’t need the help, governments at every level should focus on creating fair economic environments that give all businesses – including young entrepreneurs – the opportunity to compete and succeed on an even playing field.”

North Carolina job recruiters, like in most states in the running, have not disclosed how much money they are offering Amazon to choose them. North Carolina justifies incentives that reduce taxes and lower costs to companies because the breaks are based on meeting hiring goals.

A provision in the state’s budget last year provides enhanced incentives for companies that invest at least $4 billion and create at least 5,000 jobs. They could receive full tax refunds and the state could help pay to develop sites. Amazon says it will spend $5 billion and hire up to 50,000 high-paying jobs.

Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore wrote a letter to Amazon last year saying they were open to “further modifications” to the financial incentives package that has been offered.

Amazon invited proposals from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and received 238 submissions, which last month it narrowed to 20 locations in 15 U.S. states and Toronto. The Triangle was the only region in North Carolina to make the second round. The digital ad was targeted to 19 U.S. locations.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO