As the Beatles said, money can’t buy you love. And it just might bring you grief if your spending gets too obvious.
That’s the hard lesson the folks at Amazon learned in the 2019 Seattle City Council election. Jeff Bezos and his top geniuses in the nation’s most efficient business empire thought it would be a brilliant idea to pour a million bucks into the seven council races to goose the campaigns of candidates thought to be more friendly to business. Now, it looks as if that big cash dump may have hurt more than it helped.
Amazon got flamed by national progressive leaders, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, for trying to buy an election and, in the final weeks of the campaign, that’s all anyone was talking about.
“Unfortunately, when Amazon dropped over $1 million into the City Council races just as ballots were sent out, our closing arguments were completely subsumed by national media attention,” said Egan Orion, the challenger to Amazon’s number one target, Socialist incumbent Kshama Sawant. “It made the election not about my opponent’s record and policies but about Amazon and their massive unneeded spending.”
After overcoming Orion’s election-night lead, Sawant claimed victory and boasted about beating Bezos,”the richest man in the world.” It seems likely that Sawant’s win, as well as the triumphs of other candidates deemed less friendly to business, came about because of a surge in ballots from voters upset by the big corporate donations.
Amazon should have stayed out of the fight or else should have had a smarter plan. Some worthy candidates, including Orion, former Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel and ex-councilmember Heidi Wills, got unfairly branded as shills for big business, when in fact they are simply smart, experienced, reasonable voices who could have brought a bit less stridency and a little more comity to a council that will now be even less enamored of Bezos and company.
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