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Political Donations From 3 Big Washington Employers Favor GOP

Flickr/401 (K) 2012 (CC BY-NC-ND)

Businesses have poured millions of dollars into political contributions this election season. But you may be surprised to learn that in Democratic-leaning Washington, the state’s three largest employers tend to favor Republican candidates.

Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon all have political action committees, or PACS, that make political contributions.  The PACs amass cash from employee and shareholder contributions.

The Federal Election Commission tracks that money at the federal level. According to FEC filings, Boeing has made more than $2.3 million in political donations to federal candidates and organizations this election cycle. Microsoft has contributed $1.6 million. Amazon is a much smaller player with donations of $135,000.

For all three companies, the bulk of their contributions went to sitting members of Congress. Boeing’s biggest single donations were to retiring Congressman Norm Dicks and Missouri Congressman Russ Carnahan, both Democrats. Their campaigns received $15,000 each from Boeing’s PAC.

In most cases, PAC money tends to benefit incumbents in political races, rather than challengers.

“If you are trying to get influence with the people who are going to affect legislation that’s affecting you, you are talking incumbents,” said Todd Donovan, professor of political science at Western Washington University. “You can roll the dice, and try to change who those incumbents are, you risk alienating those incumbents if they continue to win election. It’s a safer strategy to back those incumbents that you know are there.”

More Money to Republicans

According to Donovan, big companies tend to be relatively bipartisan in their political giving. Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon give to both Republicans and Democrats.

But this election cycle, their contributions are skewing Republican.

The website opensecrets.organalyzes PAC contributions to see which parties benefit.

That’s a reversal from previous elections. Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon all gave more to Democrats in the past two election cycles.

None of the companies would comment on-the-record about their political donations. But, Donovan says the tilt toward Republicans is probably not ideological. During the 2010 mid-term elections, the balance of power in the House of Representatives shifted, with 63 new Republicans elected to office.

Increasing their campaign contributions to Republicans is “driven by who is controlling things and who can help you,” said Donovan.

Washington State’s Share

Of the three major employers, Microsoft is the biggest contributor to campaigns in Washington state.

According to the state's Public Disclosure Commission website, the company spent close to $400,000 on state political campaigns. It gave $100,000 to both the charter schools initiative and the campaign for same sex marriage.

In addition, the founders of Microsoft and Amazon have made large personal contributions to both campaigns.

Microsoft co-founders Paul Allen and Bill Gates have each given more than $3 million to the charter schools initiative.

Gates and his wife Melinda have given more than $600,000 to the campaign for same-sex marriage. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie have also given the campaign $2.5 million.

Jeff Bezos’s parents are also big donors. They have given $1 million to the charter schools initiative.

Year started with KUOW: 2009
Year started with KUOW: 2005