Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said Amazon.com Inc. “never intended to invest in New York” and declined to distance herself from progressives who have expressed satisfaction that the company canceled plans to build a massive corporate campus there.
“All they were looking for were massive tax break to continue to have record profits,” the junior senator from New York told reporters after a campaign event Monday night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “The fact that Jeff Bezos wanted our taxpayers to pay for his helicopter landing pad just shows how disingenuous he was from the beginning.”
She was referring to a proposed transportation hub for senior Amazon executives that would have been set atop one of the company’s new skyscrapers, had they gone forward with a planned second headquarters in the city’s Queens borough.
The world’s biggest online retailer on Feb. 14 abruptly canceled plans to establish a corporate campus amid a backlash from some community organizers and politicians over $3 billion in government financial incentives promised to the company for a project that aimed to create 25,000 high-paying tech jobs.
The debate over Amazon has exposed divisions within the Democratic Party between business-friendly centrists, once represented by former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and a growing populist faction that’s shaping the earliest phases of the 2020 nomination race.
Some New York progressives, including high-profile Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district includes parts of Queens and the Bronx, have celebrated Amazon’s exit.
“It’s not an expression of joy,” Gillibrand said when asked if she agreed with positive sentiments over the company’s decision to abandon New York. “It’s an expression of deep disappointment.”
“I think her point is that the subsidies that were given to Amazon were outrageous, not that she didn’t want the jobs in New York,” Gillibrand said in defending Ocasio-Cortez’s response. “The fact that taxpayers were going to be left holding the bag for one of the most profitable companies in the country just shows how outrageous the deal was from the beginning.”
Asked whether the situation risks tainting progressives and Democrats anti-business, Gillibrand disagreed.
“We want to lift up good business leaders who actually do know the difference between capitalism and greed,” she said. “This really strikes me as greed.”
In November, Gillibrand released a statement echoing Ocasio-Cortez’s opposition to incentives for the company. “One of the wealthiest companies in history should not be receiving financial assistance from the taxpayers while too many New York families struggle to make ends meet,” she said at the time.
Gillibrand’s Monday evening stops in Iowa were part of her second visit to the state as a presidential candidate. On her first visit, she started the trip in conservative-leaning western Iowa and emphasized her past electoral success as a congressional candidate in an upstate New York district that had been represented by a Republican before her 2006 victory.