Several high-level Amazon executives including CEO Jeff Bezos pumped cash into Republican Sen. Cory Gardner's campaign committee, a new third-quarter Federal Election Commission filing revealed. But the money isn't to help the senator from Colorado in the Nov. 6 midterms. Gardner isn't up for re-election until 2020.
Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, each wrote checks worth $5,400 to Gardner's campaign committee; that amount is the most an individual is allowed to give to those seeking public office.
Bezos was joined by eight other Amazon representatives, including Jeffrey Wilkie, the CEO of Amazon's Worldwide Consumer division, and Brian Olsavsky, the company's chief financial officer, who each gave $5,400. All of the contributions from the Amazon executives came in September.
Amazon spokeswoman Jill Kerr confirmed Bezos' contribution to Gardner but declined to comment further. A representative for Gardner did not return a request for comment.
While it's unclear why some leaders at the online retailer decided to back Gardner, Amazon has lobbied for numerous pieces of legislation that the Colorado Republican has co-sponsored. The DIGIT Act, which recently passed the U.S. Senate and is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives, is one of four Gardner co-sponsored bills that Amazon's government relations team supported.
The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, calls on the Commerce Department to create a working group to examine what's described as the "Internet of Things," a network of devices that are connected by the internet and have the ability to exchange data.
A second-quarter lobbying disclosure form shows Amazon spent over $3 million on issues pertaining to that bill and other pieces of legislation at the time.
Gardner's state has also seen a boost from Amazon's goal of expanding its operations. In 2017, Amazon opened a fulfillment center in Aurora, Colorado. In September of that year, it was reported that the company hired over 900 people to work in the new location. Gardner, at the time, celebrated the grand opening in a tweet.
In October 2017, Gardner, along with other members of Colorado's congressional delegation, signed a letter to Bezos supporting the decision to make their state a candidate for Amazon's HQ2 project. The retail company is looking to create a new corporate headquarters in a city other than its home base of Seattle. In January, Denver was on the list of potential cities for the new headquarters. Amazon's CEO has said he will make a final decision on the host city by the end of the year.
Gardner, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which helps Republicans get elected into the Senate, is one of the top beneficiaries of Amazon's campaign donations in the 2018 election cycle even though he's not running, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The two candidates above him on that list are Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who is looking to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas this cycle, and Democratic Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, who is seeking re-election in November.
Amazon and Bezos have become some of the top spenders throughout the 2018 midterm season.
Bezos, considered the wealthiest man in the world by Forbes with a net worth of $144 billion, gave just over $10 million back in August to the With Honor Fund, a bipartisan super PAC looking to elect veterans into the House this year.
Amazon employees and affiliated political action committees spent $12.6 million on this year's midterms, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. It's the most that company executives have invested in an election since 2016, when only $1 million was put forward.