The American Prospect: Silicon Valley’s Big Apple Gambit

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Last month, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) took a well-deserved victory lapafter Amazon announced it would be opening new corporate offices in New York City, months after it pulled out of opening a second headquarters in the area. Local leaders criticized the $3 billion in subsidies (at least) Amazon stood to gain for locating the headquarters, known as HQ2, in Long Island City, Queens, near AOC’s district. The new offices, while bringing fewer jobs to New York (about 1,500 compared with an estimated 25,000 in HQ2), will not cost the city anything in economic-development subsidies. Amazon begged off any of the special tax credits and grants that it previously was offered.

“Waiting on the haters to apologize after we were proven right on Amazon and saved the public billions,” AOC tweeted on the news.

But Amazon may still make out like bandits in the end. The new office space, in the Hudson Yards neighborhood on the West Side of Manhattan, joins other tech giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook, all of which are planning or have already moved into new digs on the West Side. That happens to be the district of House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). And his committee is currently investigating all four of those tech firms for antitrust violations and anti-competitive behavior.

This is an old strategy tech has picked up from other corporate giants: If you bring jobs to an area, maybe lawmakers will become friendlier to your interests. There’s a reason that large weapons systems rely on parts manufactured in practically every congressional district. Nadler will now have to weigh following the law and promoting competition that benefits workers, entrepreneurs, and society with the thousands of jobs at home. Turning the West Side into the next Silicon Valley, in other words, must be seen as part of the political fortress Big Tech wants to build around its practices.

Nadler won the Judiciary Committee ranking slot at the end of 2017, after the late John Conyers resigned from Congress. He beat out Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who represents part of Silicon Valley, including most of the tech hub of San Jose, where Google is building a mega-campus. Lofgren’s defeat meant that Big Tech needed to establish a beachhead to influence the new Judiciary Committee chair. And they went right to work.

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