Amazon Employees Among Most Common Donors to Bernie Sanders Campaign in Last Quarter of 2019

Bernie Sanders Holds New Year's Eve Rally
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a New Year's Eve campaign event on December 31, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Stephen Maturen/Getty

In the fourth and final fundraising quarter of 2019, employees of Amazon were among the largest donors to the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, according to a press release from the campaign.

The campaign stated that Sanders raised $34.5 million in the last three months of 2019. "Teacher" was the most common occupation among donors, and the most common employers of donors were "Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, the United States Postal Service and Target."

Newsweek has reached out to Amazon and the Sanders campaign for comment.

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Data from the Center for Responsive Politics appeared to corroborate the Sanders campaign's statement with regard to the large number of contributions from Amazon employees. The organization, which records fundraising data on its website, OpenSecrets.org, reported that "Amazon.com" was the third largest contributor to the Sanders campaign during the first three quarters of fundraising. "The money came from the organizations' PACs; their individual members, employees or owners; and those individuals' immediate families. At the federal level, the organizations themselves did not donate, as they are prohibited by law from doing so," the center explained.

Amazon contributors donated $133,548 to the campaign in the first three quarters, out of a total of nearly $74 million in contributions.

It is noteworthy that the Sanders campaign has received a considerable amount of money from Amazon employees. Sanders is a self-described socialist, and his platform calls for improved working conditions, labor unions and fair wages for all workers could strike a chord with some of them. Amazon does not allow its workers to unionize, and has faced criticism in the past for the working conditions in its facilities, particularly in its warehouses. As Newsweek reported, working conditions in an Amazon warehouse in Eagan, Minnesota, prompted a walk-out in October.

Sanders has spoken out against the company's policies and workplace conditions in the past.

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In August 2018, after Sanders claimed Amazon did not pay its workers fair wages and decried the working conditions, the company accused the senator of spreading "inaccurate and misleading" information. Sanders remained steadfast in his criticism of Amazon. He also reached out directly to employees, requesting that they share share workplace experiences in a form that asked if employees had been forced to use public assistance to "make ends meet" because Amazon did not pay them sufficient wages to live comfortably.

In December, Sanders also called out Amazon and other companies for paying $0 in federal income tax in 2018.

Despite all this criticism, the Sanders campaign has used Amazon to purchase items like office supplies. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that the Sanders campaign had spent more than $233,000 in Amazon purchases as of September 2019. Given Sanders's denunciations of the company, this fact stirred "impassioned dissent" among some of the campaign's staff, according to the Post. Jeff Bezos, the CEO and founder of Amazon, owns The Washington Post, but the Post has said that its reporters operate independently of his oversight.

While Bezos is one of the richest people in the world, a CNN analysis published in April 2018—a few months before Amazon implemented its $15 minimum wage— found that at least half of Amazon employees already earned $15 per hour.

Most funds from Amazon workers likely came to the campaign in small, individual donations. According to the Sanders campaign, the average size of a donation in the fourth quarter of 2019 was $18.53.

According to Sanders, the size of the individual donations indicated that campaigns could garner support without assistance from the rich.

"Together, we're proving you don't need to beg the wealthy and the powerful for campaign contributions in order to win elections," Sanders wrote in a tweet about his campaign's fourth quarter results Thursday.

Most national polls have shown Sanders in second place for the Democratic nomination, just behind former Vice President Joe Biden. On Thursday afternoon, the Biden campaign, announced raised $22.7 million in the last quarter of 2019, for a fundraising total of $59.5 million since the campaign launched on April 25. Data from the Center for Responsive Politics stated that the largest contributions came from donors associated with three law firms—Morgan & Morgan; Paul, Weiss et al. and Weitz & Luxenberg.

Amazon Employees Among Most Common Donors to Bernie Sanders Campaign in Last Quarter of 2019 | U.S.