A fun little digression at the end of this Bloomberg report on Amazon’s recent political blunders contains a bit of interesting information about former Washington State Senator Guy Palumbo, who resigned from office a year before the conclusion of his first and only term to pursue a career as an Amazon lobbyist.
According to the report, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy and guy with “longstanding political ties to the GOP,” hired Palumbo, “a friend of Andy Jassy, the head of [Amazon Web Services], to head its effort to seed the city council with friendlier faces.”
Before we get to the part where Palumbo skips off to Florida after the election, it’s worth taking a moment to summarize the information we already have here. So, the lobbyist who got chewed up and spit out by New Yorkers after trying and failing to turn Long Island City into South Lake Union hired the former representative of the fine people of Maltby, a small town in unincorporated Snohomish county, to recruit candidates for the company’s effort to buy Seattle‘s city council, partially on the strength of his personal relationship with Amazon’s cloud computing guy. How could it have gone so wrong? How could a suburban state senator and a DC lobbyist so badly misjudge the needs and sympathies of voters in Seattle?
Even the reporters at Bloomberg seem skeptical of Palumbo’s qualifications for the job: “Palumbo had run only two state elections—both his own—with a success rate of 50%. He had been reprimanded by the Democratic Party as a state senator, and sponsored popular Amazon-friendly cloud legislation.”
That said, Palumbo was instrumental in blocking the passage of a capital gains tax last year, so I can see why Amazon would like him. Anyhow, Bloomberg goes on:
Under Palumbo and Huseman’s leadership, Amazon decided to flood the election with cash, hoping to win a five-seat majority of council votes. The company only needed to pick up one new seat. Palumbo made a show of backing Egan Orion, who was running against incumbent Kshma [sic] Sawant, a self-proclaimed socialist [Eds note: Lol, as if they had to dance around it. She’s a socialist]. Sawant mobilized her supporters on the back of Amazon’s opposition. Less than a day after Palumbo tweeted his support for Orion, Sawant attended a candidate forum hosted by Amazon and asked the company’s workers to vote for her instead.
On election night, Orion seemed to be set to win, and Palumbo was captured by news cameras [i.e. my camera] at the candidate’s victory party. Palumbo then left for vacation in Florida before the absentee ballots had been counted.
As we know, the ballots—which were not “absentee” ballots, since all Washington ballots are mailed in or slipped into drop boxes—did not end up counting in Amazon’s favor. Only one of the candidates Amazon supported through their massive, $1.5 million donation to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, ended up winning the general election, and even then only by 1,400 votes.
Last month I’d heard rumors that Palumbo had his hand in the city races, but I distrusted the information because it seemed too self-serving for him. Nevertheless, his involvement makes the line the Seattle Times overheard Palumbo “quietly chant[ing]” at a rally against Amazon’s big money dump all the more incredible.
“When the billionaires are on the attack, what do we do?” [Sawant] said. “Stand up, fight back!” the crowd shouted.
Amazon lobbyist and former Democratic state Sen. Guy Palumbo, standing behind reporters at the scene, quietly chanted his own response: “Lose!”
Good on the city for proving him wrong.