A year after the Human Rights Campaign honored him with a National Equality Award, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has contributed the maximum allowable amount to the campaign of an anti-LGBTQ Republican.
Senator Cory Gardner (R-Color.) isn’t even up for re-election until 2020. But Bezos and his wife, writer MacKenzie Bezos, gave a combined $10,800 to his re-election campaign.
While Gardner certainly isn’t the most outspokenly anti-LGBTQ representative in Congress, he has a long history of opposing equality. In 2006, he voted to prevent same-sex couples from adopting in Colorado. Gardner also tried to impose obstacles to joint financial planning and voted multiple times against expanding nondiscrimination law to cover sexual orientation.
In addition, Gardner has long opposed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.
HRC’s National Equality Award recognizes “the outstanding efforts of those who publicly stand up for the LGBTQ community, committing their time and energy to improve the lives of LGBTQ people and advance equality for all Americans.”
The organization bestowed the National Equality Award on Bezos in October of 2017 at the 21st Annual HRC Dinner, a lavish fundraiser for the organization. HRC cited Amazon’s longtime support of its queer and trans employees, creating a internal queer resource group in 1999. Meanwhile, Bezos donated $2.5 million for marriage equality in Washington State six years ago.
Accompanied by since-disgraced actor Jeffrey Tambor, Bezos addressed the progress made by the LGBTQ community in recent decades.
“[A]cross the United States, more people now support gay and trans rights than ever before,” Bezos said. “I believe the ideal of equality is ingrained deep within all of us. … I’m incredibly optimistic—so many companies, communities, and organizations like HRC are embracing this future and helping to create it.”
“It is up to every one of us to keep making progress together,” he added.
Bezos’ contribution to Gardner’s campaign was made in September of 2018, nearly a year after the HRC gala. He isn’t the only Amazon leader to contribute, however.
Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky gave $5,400, as did Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeffrey Wilkie and Senior Vice Presidents David Clark and Doug Herrington. Amazon employees Michael Deal, Brian Huseman, Shannon Kellogg, and Kurt Lampall donated smaller amounts to the re-election campaign.
Given Amazon and Jeff Bezos’ past support of LGBTQ equality, why would they direct so much money to a homophobic politician two years before his re-election campaign?
The answer is likely money.
Amazon is in the midst of an expansion in Colorado, opening a new fulfillment center in Aurora last year that employs about 900 workers. Meanwhile, Denver is among the 20 cities vying to be the site of Amazon’s second headquarters, estimated to be worth about $5 billion.
Meanwhile, Gardner is closely connected to legislation important to Amazon’s continued expansion. That includes the DIGIT Act, which would regulate interconnected devices such as Amazon’s Alexa.
INTO reached out to HRC representatives about the links between Bezos and anti-LGBTQ policy. They did not respond before press time.
Other winners of the National Equality Award include singer Elton John and husband David Furnish, pop musician Katy Perry, and Broadway star Audra McDonald. This year’s honoree was Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway, who was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden.