Corporate America withdraws political donations after Capitol storming

Many of Wall Street and the United States’ biggest corporate donors are reviewing their political spending after last week’s assault on the Capitol building threatening to withdraw millions of dollars from lawmakers whose opposition to the election result he presidential election contributed to the unrest.

Banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup and technology groups Facebook and Microsoft were among those to suspend all donations from their political action committees, or PACs.

Others cut funding only to Republicans who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. Companies that made it through included AT&T, the largest public company donor to those lawmakers; Amazon, the e-commerce group; Dow, the chemical company; and American Express.

Dow said it would suspend PAC contributions to politicians who challenge election results for a full election cycle, affecting members of the House of Representatives for up to two years and senators for up to six years.

Hallmark, the greeting card company, has asked two of those senators to return their contributions, having given $7,000 to Josh Hawley and $5,000 to Roger Marshall over the past two years. The two senators’ recent actions “do not reflect our company values,” he said.

In a memo to Amex employees, Chief Executive Stephen Squeri said attempts by some members of Congress “to subvert the presidential election process” did not align with the credit card company’s values, so its PAC would no longer support them.

The Amex PAC had backed the campaigns of 22 House Republicans who opposed election certification.

Morgan Stanley is also indefinitely suspending contributions to elected officials who voted against certification of election results, a person familiar with the bank’s decision said.

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, said he had never seen such a range of companies simultaneously questioning their political spending.

“We’re talking about millions of dollars in campaign contributions that will dry up,” he said, adding that the message the statements sent to lawmakers was as important as the money involved. “If you have Wall Street saying you’re too radical for us. . . it will resonate,” he said.

Noting that several companies have suspended donations to all applicants, Holman described this approach as “safer [but] kinda loose.”

Microsoft, which has drawn opposition from some employees over its past spending, said its PAC would not make any donations “until it assessed the implications of the events of the past week” and would consult with employees on its future donations. .

Citigroup halted all political contributions for three months, JPMorgan Chase said it was suspending all PAC donations for six months, and Goldman Sachs said it was suspending all political spending indefinitely.

Still, several bank insiders admitted the impact of their actions would be minimal. “Now really isn’t the time to give,” one said, noting that the next congressional elections won’t be until November 2022. Another insider said their bank would “catch up.” and would donate later in the midterm election cycle, although the funds would be distributed to the various candidates in light of the events of the past week.

Amounts given through bank PACs are usually in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

In a memo to staff, Citi government affairs manager Candi Wolff said the bank donated to just one of the “candidates who led the charge against electoral college certification,” donating $1,000 in 2019 to Mr. Hawley’s campaign.

“We want you to be assured that we will not support candidates who fail to uphold the rule of law,” Ms Wolff said.

Deutsche Bank, Mr. Trump’s longtime lender, has decided to no longer do business with the incumbent president or his companies, a person familiar with the matter said, confirming information from The New York Times. The decision was made before the Capitol bombings, which Deutsche’s US executive Christiana Riley described as a “dark day for America and our democracy” in a LinkedIn post.

The moves reflect an overhaul of political spending in corporate America. A mock poll of more than 30 chief executives by the Yale School of Management last week found unanimous support for the political spending review.

Since then, companies like American Airlines, FedEx, Ford and Marriott have said their PACs will review or suspend contributions.

Video: What the US Capitol riot means for Republicans and Democrats

Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, said the wave of corporate threats to withdraw contributions was unprecedented. “The risk has really caught up with them,” he said.

But he added that contributions through PACs were a small part of total political spending by companies, whose payments through trade associations and tax-exempt fundraising bodies are not subject to the same requirements. of disclosure.

Trade associations that were among the biggest donors to Republican senators who refused to certify election results gave more cautious responses. The American Bankers Association said it would discuss the “troubling events” of the past week with its members before making a decision.

Meanwhile, in sports, prominent American football coach and longtime Trump ally Bill Belichick said on Monday he would not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. US and the latest public rebuke to last week’s insurrection on Capitol Hill. .

Mr. Belichick is widely regarded as one of the best National Football League coaches in history, having won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots. “The tragic events of the past week have occurred and the decision has been made not to proceed with the award,” he said in a statement that did not mention Mr. Trump’s name. adding that he had “great respect for the values ​​of our nation, freedom, and democracy”.

Additional reporting by Sara Germano in New York