Few things unite a Republican stalwart like Roy Blunt and a Democratic firebrand like Claire McCaskill. But the prospect of a political win prompted the two U.S. senators to put aside their differences this week — and practically plead with Amazon to plop its new headquarters in their shared home state of Missouri.
In doing so, the duo joined a growing group of federal lawmakers — from Pennsylvania to Texas — who are actively angling for the e-commerce giant's second corporate outpost, dubbed HQ2. The new hub could generate 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in fresh Amazon investment wherever it ultimately lands, at least in the company's eyes.
For members of Congress, though, this sort of race to capture corporate cash and attention always presents an immense contradiction. Enticing new jobs and dollars sometimes means that lawmakers must woo the very businesses that they're supposed to be regulating with a far more objective eye.
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And they face a special challenge when it comes to Amazon, a tech behemoth that has long faced criticism for its hyperaggressive tactics as it conquers new industries, from entertainment to cloud computing to smart-home devices.
"I do think it puts people in a difficult situation, because obviously, on the one hand, you want to speak out strongly on issues of privacy, on issues of antitrust, on issues of tax [compliance]," said Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, who represents a slice of Silicon Valley, in an interview with Recode. "But I think also many of these members say, 'Look, 50,000 jobs in our environment, which may not require college degrees, is like winning the lottery.'"
At times, it seems like a precarious balance for lawmakers to strike.
Earlier this year, for example, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker sounded alarms about Amazon's most recent gambit: Its $14 billion purchase of Whole Foods. At the time, Booker told Recode that the deal — which the U.S. government later approved — could create new headaches for disadvantaged communities already lacking in grocery options.
By October, Booker nonetheless saw new opportunity in Amazon's desire to set up a shop outside of its Seattle roots. In time for the company's Oct. 19 application deadline, Booker joined New Jersey's unpopular Republican governor, Chris Christie, to pitch Newark as the best site for HQ2. Local regulators also promised Amazon a whopping $7 billion in tax breaks if it located its future hub in the city where Booker previously served as mayor.
"Amazon would be smart to come here," Booker said at a recent press conference.
His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.