WASHINGTON: Amazon.com Inc founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has entered the American political arena with a US$10 million contribution to a nonpartisan campaign fund dedicated to electing military veterans to Congress, the fund said on Wednesday.
Bezos, along with his wife, MacKenzie, made the donation to the one-year-old super PAC as Americans prepare to vote in Nov. 6 congressional elections that are seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump.
Ellen Zeng, political director for the With Honor fund, confirmed the donation, saying it was the largest they have received this year. Zeng said the fund aims to split its spending equally between Democrats and Republicans. Super PACs are political funds that must operate separately from political campaigns but can raise and spend unlimited money.
Representatives for Bezos and Amazon could not be reached for comment on the contribution, which did not yet appear on the U.S. Federal Election Commission database.
Rye Barcott, who served in the Marines, founded the group, which focuses on candidacies for the U.S. House of Representatives. He told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story Wednesday, that Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos shared the fund's apolitical goal of building a "cross-partisan coalition" willing to work across party lines.
Bezos' parents, Miguel and Jacklyn, gave more than US$1 million earlier this year to the same group, according to the FEC database.
November's election will decide if Trump's fellow Republicans maintain their hold on the House and Senate and can keep pressing his agenda. Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to take a majority in the House, and two to take control of the Senate. With control of one or both chambers, Democrats could not just stymie that agenda but increase scrutiny of the president and his Cabinet through congressional investigations.
According to the fund, nearly 200 veterans are seeking U.S. House seats this year. It has so far endorsed 33 of them on its website, including Democrats Amy McGrath of Kentucky, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania as well as Republicans Lynne Blankenbeker of New Hampshire, Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin.
Those with its backing have pledged to meet with someone from a different political party monthly and to co-sponsor legislation with a legislator from another party at least yearly, according to the group's website.
That promise contrasts with an increasingly polarized electorate and fierce partisan battles over immigration, healthcare, guns, race and social justice issues, and other matters.
Trump has repeatedly slammed Amazon over the online retail giant's collection of sales taxes and shipping rates via the U.S. Postal Service. Trump has also frequently criticized the Washington Post, which Bezos owns separately from Amazon, as well as Bezos himself. The two men met last year at the White House along with other tech CEOs.
In January, Bezos and his wife donated US$33 million to a scholarship program for young so-called Dreamer immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Frances Kerry)