The administration of Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee won’t say whether the Lee Company will receive a cent for any services it may offer Amazon before or after the latter sets up shop in Nashville.
No one at the Lee Company will say anything either.
Nor will anyone at Amazon.
No one at either of the two companies or inside Lee’s staff would return The Tennessee Star’s repeated requests for comment on the matter Wednesday.
As The Star reported, city and state officials have offered $105 million in incentives to Amazon, something certain people have called corporate welfare. In exchange, Amazon is to offer 5,000 jobs for a $230 million operations center.
This all happened before Lee took office in January.
Specifically, The Star wanted to know whether Amazon might offer the Lee Company even a single penny for facility management or other services for any Amazon activities in Nashville.
As The Tennessean reported, Lee stepped down as chairman of the Lee Company last month, before taking the oath as governor. Lee placed his company’s holdings into a blind trust.
As the Nashville-based WKRN reported this month, Lee told a Sumner County audience he met with Amazon officials about its plans for an operation center in downtown Nashville.
“I am just excited about what they are doing right now,” the station quoted the governor as saying.
“You know, Amazon has a history of outperforming their growth on jobs, so we certainly hope they do.”
As The Star reported last year, the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a Nashville-based free market think tank, criticized Amazon’s arrangement with the state and city governments.
“Nashville was passed over for Amazon’s second (and third) headquarters, yet city and state officials still got scammed into giving the company more than $100 million in taxpayer giveaways for a consolation prize, which includes $80 million in cash handouts. Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, and the government played taxpayers with this incentive deal, and it is time for us to speak up against this type of corporate welfare,” said Beacon spokesman Mark Cunningham, last fall.
“While we welcome new businesses and the jobs they create to our state, forcing middle-class Tennesseans and small businesses to give their hard-earned dollars to a multi-billion-dollar business is both unfair and immoral.”
Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, wrote an op-ed in September describing how Amazon does not compete on a level playing field. Manning also writes how, since 2000, it has received $1.5 billion in state and local taxpayer subsidies despite not paying federal taxes.
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Chris Butler got his master’s degree in communications from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his bachelor’s degree in political science from Louisiana Tech University.
Chris worked as a newspaper reporter for seven years and later was an investigative reporter for Tennessee Watchdog from 2010 to 2017. From May 2018 to August 3, 2018 Chris was the Tennessee communications director for the TennValues PAC, which endorsed Bill Lee for governor. Chris has served as the investigative reporter for The Tennessee Star since August 6, 2018.