Bezos’ First Major Political Donation Is $10 Million to Elect Veterans

Posted September 5, 2018 4:40 p.m. EDT

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world, has recently faced the ire of elected officials across the political spectrum, President Donald Trump on the right and Sen. Bernie Sanders on the left.

Now, two months before the midterm elections, Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, are making by far their biggest known campaign contribution to a political group that plays right down the middle.

The couple are donating $10 million to the With Honor Fund, a super PAC that supports military veterans running for Congress who vow to take a cross-party approach to governing. The group has endorsed 33 candidates running this year — 14 Republicans and 19 Democrats.

In 2012, the Bezoses gave $2.5 million to a successful referendum that legalized same-sex marriage in Washington state. Bezos’ other federal campaign donations have largely been to political action committees tied to Amazon and Blue Origin, his space exploration company, and a few small donations to a mix of Democratic and Republican federal lawmakers.

The Wall Street Journal reported the contribution early Wednesday. Amazon confirmed it but declined further comment.

Even as he has become the richest person in the world — and, along the way, a target of politicians — Bezos has largely avoided taking ideological sides. Trump has attacked him on Twitter over his ownership of The Washington Post. Sanders, the liberal independent from Vermont, has criticized the wages that Amazon pays its warehouse workers.

On Wednesday, Sanders helped introduce legislation — pointedly labeled the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies, or Stop BEZOS, Act — that would force Amazon and other large employers to essentially reimburse the government for the costs of some of the federal benefits their workers collect. Amazon has said that Sanders understates how much the company pays warehouse workers.

Since the With Honor Fund was established last year, Bezos’s parents, Mike and Jackie Bezos, have given it about $2 million, according to campaign finance filings. Jeff Wilke, who oversees Amazon’s retail business, donated $50,000 to the group, and Tom Alberg, a venture capitalist who is a member of the Amazon board, contributed $5,000, the filings show. The group had collected about $7 million as of late August.

The With Honor Fund did not respond to requests for comment.

The Bezoses do not appear to have made major donations to veteran-related causes before. Their largest known donation, made this year, was $33 million to finance scholarships for unauthorized immigrants who graduated from U.S. high schools.

At a White House event in 2016, Bezos announced plans for Amazon to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2021, calling them “incredible leaders.” The company said in November that it employed 17,500 veterans and military spouses and was “on track to far exceed its pledge.”