The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Has a New Corporate Megadonor

Amazon donated $1.7 million to the group last year as it faced allegations of illegal anti-union work.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Has a New Corporate Megadonor
House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus speak during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on January 12, 2022.

E-commerce, web hosting, and media giant Amazon donated $1.8 million to the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC) affiliated foundation and institute last year, according to new lobbying contributions filings. 

The majority of the money, $1.7 million, was donated to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a 501(c)(3) that researches how policies affect Black communities, publishes legislative reports, and hosts an annual legislative conference.” The foundation has eight House representatives and CBC members on its board of directors. 

The donations are a dramatic increase in Amazon’s prior giving to CBC groups. The company first began donating to CBC affiliates in 2017, with a $25,000 donation to the Institute, and it gave a bit more each year after—$100,000 in 2018, $135,000 in 2019, and $732,500 in 2020. Its increased donations in 2021 came as the company was fighting antitrust bills moving through Congress and defending itself against allegations of illegal anti-union activities. 

According to its most recent annual report, CBC’s foundation brought in $8.3 million in contributions and grants in 2020. Donors that gave it more than $1 million that year include Dow Chemical, Target, and Truist Financial. 

The remaining $100,000 of Amazon’s 2021 donations to CBC affiliates was given to the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, which says its mission is to “educate today’s voters and train tomorrow’s leaders.” According to tax documents, its main activities are candidate training, policy research, and hosting an annual conference. The institute has three CBC members on its board, including Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip whose job is to tell members of the Democratic caucus how to vote on bills. 

The Congressional Black Caucus is a group of 58 Black Democratic members of the U.S. House and Senate, chaired since January 2021 by Ohio Democrat Joyce Beatty. On its website, it says one of its main goals is “strengthening protections for workers and expanding access to full, fairly-compensated employment.”

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against Amazon alleging that the company illegally threatened, intimidated, and surveilled workers at JFK8, the company’s largest New York City warehouse, who had been trying to start a union. According to Motherboard, the complaint says that Amazon representatives called the organizers “thugs” and said the effort was “futile” because union formation “would never happen” there. 

Amazon has also been donating to state-level Black caucuses. According to a Crain’s Chicago Business report from February 2021, Amazon provided seed funding for the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ new Social Justice & Public Policy Institute.