State Politics

Amazon revs up political donations as its search for a second headquarters continues

The Amazon.com warehouse and distribution center in Coffeyville, Kansas.
The Amazon.com warehouse and distribution center in Coffeyville, Kansas. The Wichita Eagle

As it sizes up the cities on its list of finalists for a second headquarters, Amazon has been spreading more campaign contributions around the country than ever.

In the most recent 18-month election cycle, Amazon, through its political action committee, gave $1.5 million to congressional candidates and political committees. That is more than twice the amount the Amazon PAC spent in the 2016-2017 cycle, according to Federal Elections Committee data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics. Its contributions are closely divided between Republican and Democrat candidates.

In North Carolina, the Amazon committee gave $33,000 to nine of the state’s 13-member congressional delegation and one U.S. senator. Most of the candidates received between $1,000 and $2,500, but four made out better:

DC Home Rule
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican who serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, topped the list of recipients with $8,000. Republican Rep. Richard Hudson received $5,000; Democratic Rep. Alma Adams received $4,500, and Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx received, $4,000. Hudson is on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, while Adams and Foxx are on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Not showing any contributions from the Amazon PAC were U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield and Rep. David Price, both Democrats, and Republican Reps. Walter Jones and Ted Budd. Jones does not have a challenger; Butterfield and Price are in safe seats. Only Budd is in a tight race for re-election.

Sen. Thom Tillis received $2,500 for the 2020 primary ,when he will be running for re-election. Sen. Richard Burr’s third term ends in 2023, and he has said he will not seek re-election.

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Jeff Bezos, Chairman and CEO of Amazon.com AP FILE PHOTO

In addition to the Amazon PAC’s donations, Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos made a $10 million donation — his largest ever — to the With Honor Fund, a super PAC that backs veterans for Congress, according to The Wall Street Journal. The committee is led by Charlotte businessman Rye Barcott, The Charlotte Observer reported.

And the Observer pointed out that Bezos’ contribution could be a big boost for Democrat Dan McCready, who is running against Mark Harris in a closely contested 9th Congressional District race. McCready, a former Iraq veteran, has already been endorsed by the With Honor Fund.

Amazon’s political committee has not given any contributions to statewide candidates in North Carolina.

Amazon’s PAC made campaign contributions to congressional campaigns in all 16 states that are still in the HQ2 running, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, which first reported on the effort. Amazon says the political contributions are unrelated to its search for a second headquarters.

The publication reported that Washington, D.C. led all other sites with $245,000 in Amazon PAC contributions, followed by Virginia with $123,500. But those numbers are likely inflated because many political committees and organizations have D.C. and northern Virginia mailing addresses, even though they support campaigns from around the country. North Carolina was 10th on the list.

Amazon’s pattern of political donations is typical of major companies that contribute to both parties in hopes of covering all the bases when it comes to passing favorable legislation, David McLennan, political science professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, said in an email. AT&T and Facebook give almost equally to Democrats and Republican members of Congress, he noted.

“By giving money to members of the North Carolina congressional delegation, as well as delegations of other states it is considering for its second headquarters, Amazon is not tipping its hat about the site it may favor. Also, since it does business in every state and has distribution centers in many states, favorable treatment by members of Congress it supports through campaign contributions doesn’t hurt.”

Amazon recently announced it would build a distribution center in Garner that would be completed in about a year. It has a distribution center in Durham and another in Kannapolis. Amazon also plans to build one near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Campaign finance reports also show that the Amazon PAC spent $7 million nationally on lobbying this year, including $180,000 to hire the law firm McGuire Woods, which has offices across the country, including in Raleigh and Charlotte, as well as international branches.

Amazon set off a competitive frenzy last year when it invited applications from regions to host the Seattle-based company’s second headquarters, dubbed HQ2. The company says it will spend more than $5 billion on construction of a new headquarters and hire up to 50,000 highly paid workers over time.

The Triangle was among 20 areas that made the first cut. Amazon has not indicated when it will make a decision, leading to months of speculation about the most likely location.

Here are the Amazon PAC’s campaign contributions to North Carolina’s congressional delegation. With the exception of Adams all are Republicans.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows: $8,000

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson: $5,000

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams: $4,500

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx: $4,000

U.S. Rep. David Rouzer: $2,000

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry: $2,500

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker: $2,000

U.S. Rep. George Holding: $1,500

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger: $1,000

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