Seattle voters, in a rebuke to heavy corporate campaign spending by Amazon.com, have kept progressives firmly in control of their city council, reviving chances for a tax on big businesses that the tech giant helped fend off last year.
Amazon poured a record USD 1.5 million into a Super PAC run by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to back a slate of candidates in the November 5 council elections viewed as pro-business, or at least more corporate friendly than the incumbent council majority.
Amazon, the world’s leading online retailer whose chief executive is billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, accounted for more than half of nearly USD 2.7 million raised by the Super PAC, a group allowed to accept unlimited sums from wealthy donors in support of their favorite candidates. Four years ago, Amazon donated USD 25,000.
By comparison, labor unions spent more than USD 1 million on the council race.
The unprecedented level of spending in a Seattle municipal race drew national attention, with Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders accusing Amazon of trying to buy the council.
The outcome for most of the seven council seats at stake in Tuesday’s election was too close to call until Friday night, when a tally of 97 per cent of votes cast showed that progressive candidates had won five of the seats, including two incumbents.
One of them was Kshama Sawant, a self-described socialist and Amazon’s fiercest critic on the council, whose re-election bid was seen as the bellwether contest.
Just two of the seven candidates endorsed by Amazon and other companies through the chamber’s Super Pac emerged winners, one of them an incumbent.
The overall progressive balance of the nine-seat council was little changed. Two other seats come up for re-election in 2021.
“The election results are a repudiation of the billionaire class, corporate real estate, and the establishment,” Sawant said at a press conference on Saturday, flanked by supporters holding a “Tax Amazon” banner....