While the violent and deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol last week has resulted in a growing number of arrests, more than 170 investigations and the historic second impeachment of a U.S. president, it has also led to an unprecedented blowback from the business world.
Five people died during the Jan. 6 riot, including a Capitol police officer, and lawmakers had to scramble for safety and hide as rioters rampaged through the building, delaying by hours the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.
Now, a long list of major corporations say they will cut off campaign contributions to Republicans who voted to challenge Biden’s victory.
And the amount of money involved is significant.
Corporations and industry groups donated at least $170 million US since 2016 to Republicans who rejected Biden’s victory, according to a new report by a government-watchdog group.
The analysis by Public Citizen, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization, examined corporate and trade association contributions made since the 2016 election cycle to the members of Congress who, at U.S. President Donald Trump’s behest, objected to the Jan. 6 formal certification of November’s election.
Last week, 147 Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to challenge Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania or Arizona, even though both states already formally certified the results and election officials say there were no significant problems with the vote.
They included the top two House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, and Senator Rick Scott, who as incoming head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee will head efforts to win back the Senate in the 2022 elections. All of their jobs require extensive fundraising.
If corporations and industry groups “decided to actually get together and stop contributing to these people, it will have an effect,” said Mike Tanglis, Public Citizen’s research director, who co-authored the report. Tanglis said, however, that he’s “very skeptical that they will stop contributing to these people forever.”
The announcements by Amazon.com, General Electric, Dow, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon Communications, American Express, Airbnb, Cisco Systems, Best Buy and Mastercard, among others, threaten to throttle fundraising resources for Republicans who will soon be out of power in the White House and both chambers of Congress.
AT&T and Comcast, for example, are among the biggest corporate donors in Washington.
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Walmart said Tuesday that its political action committee (PAC) “is indefinitely suspending contributions to those members of Congress who voted against the lawful certification of state electoral college votes.” Walmart gave nearly $1.2 million US to federal candidates in the 2017-18 election cycle.
Major League Baseball added its name to the list Wednesday, saying in a statement that all political contributions would be halted.
“In light of the unprecedented events last week at the U.S. Capitol, MLB is suspending contributions from its political action committee pending a review of our political contribution policy going forward,” the league said in a statement.
The Major League Baseball Commissioners Office PAC donated $112,500 to federal candidates in 2019-20 according to the Center for Responsive Politics with $66,500 going to Democrats and $46,000 to Republicans.
Greeting-card giant Hallmark said it asked senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall to return its contributions.
Hawley defends his move
Hawley was the first senator to announce a challenge to the Electoral College results, and his challenge went on even after the attack.
Facing waning support from other longtime backers and donors, he defended himself Thursday in a newspaper column, accusing the media and “Washington establishment” of deceiving Americans into calling him an “insurrectionist.”
The corporate announcements are a sign that some major donors, which typically spread their money widely around Capitol Hill, are re-assessing their strategies.
Several analysts said the boycott may not be permanent, as the need for access on Capitol Hill might ultimately outweigh the risk of being seen as an underwriter of those who weaken U.S. democracy.
“It’s very easy to suspend campaign contributions two months after an election. The question is whether these policies will remain in effect,” said Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily.
Donations held from Democrats, too
Few companies have gone as far as Dow, which said it would withhold donations for the Republican lawmakers’ entire terms in office — up to six years for those in the Senate. Others said they would withhold donations temporarily, or suspend giving to Republicans and Democrats alike.
GE’s suspension will last through the end of 2022 and then the employee board that oversees its political action committee will consider requests for support for those lawmakers who opposed certification “on a case-by-case basis.”
Copper giant Freeport-McMoRan, Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, American Airlines, Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, BP, Smithfield Foods and Union Pacific said they would temporarily suspend donations to Democrats and Republicans alike.
Late Monday, Northrop Grumman became the first major defence contractor to temporarily halt all donations. “We are pausing political action committee giving and evaluating the way forward,” a spokesperson said.
Trump businesses feel the effects
It’s not just political donations being halted; some companies are also simply deciding to no longer work with Trump’s business ventures.
The PGA of America voted Sunday to no longer hold its 2022 Championship at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.
On Wednesday, New York City announced it is cancelling its contracts with the Trump Organzation. Mayor Bill De Blasio said the Trump Organization earns about $17 million US a year in profits from its contracts to run two ice skating rinks and a carousel in Central Park as well as a golf course in the Bronx.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Germany’s biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, will not do business in the future with Trump or his companies.