Companies rethink political donations after Capitol riot

Corporate America is quickly distancing itself from President Trump and his Republican allies, along with many of the biggest names in business – Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Coca-Cola Co., Ford Motor Co. and Comcast Corp. – suspending political donations after a Trump inspired mob ransacked the United States Capitol in a deadly and violent attack last Wednesday.

For now, it’s about asserting the rule of law and the clear results of an election that will elevate Democrat Joe Biden to the presidency. But it also signals that businesses are growing nervous about lawmakers who have backed Trump’s bogus voter fraud claims, perhaps depriving Republicans of public support from trade groups that until recently were central to the GOP’s political brand.

“It’s spreading like wildfire,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at Yale University’s School of Management who consults with chief executives. “The American business community has interests fully aligned with the American public and not with Trump’s fanatical autocratic GOP wing.”

Still, the suspension of donations announced by many companies — including Marriott International Inc., American Express Co., AT&T Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Dow Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. — was unlikely to deal a blow. seriously to the 147 Republicans in Congress who voted to overturn Biden’s victory.

“These are symbolic promises,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks the role money plays in politics. “It’s just one source of income, and for some it’s extremely small, especially in the Senate.”

Corporate-sponsored political action committees are limited to donating $5,000 per candidate each year. In races that often cost incumbents millions of dollars, these contributions represent only a small fraction of the overall fundraising picture.

Take Senator Josh Hawley. The Missouri Republican has drawn widespread scorn, including from longtime supporters and the Senate Republican leadership, for becoming the first senator to announce he would oppose victory certification of Biden.

Since 2017, when he launched his Senate bid, only about $754,000 of the $11.8 million he has raised has come from PACs from companies and trade groups. That’s about 15% of his fundraising total, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosures.

Also, Hawley wasn’t the biggest spender in his run. Outside of conservative groups, including those affiliated with the Republican leadership, it was those who dropped the lion’s share of the money that helped him oust former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. These groups are largely immune to the corporate break on donations.

Still, greeting card maker Hallmark has gone further than most companies. The Kansas City, Mo., company asked both Hawley and newly elected Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) to return their contributions because of their votes against Biden’s victory.

“Hallmark believes that the peaceful transition of power is a fundamental part of our democratic system, and we abhor all forms of violence,” company spokeswoman JiaoJiao Shen said in a statement.

A PAC for the company donated $7,000 to Marshall, according to Federal Election Commission records. The company says it also donated $5,000 to Hawley.

In many cases, however, most companies are only suspending donations for several months, allowing ample time to increase donations before the 2022 election.

“They’re going to hide until the news cycle continues,” said Erik Gordon, a law and business professor at the University of Michigan. “They’ll be back with their checkbooks, and the politicians already preparing for the 2022 congressional contests are waiting at the back door.”

Even as Trump marketed himself to voters as a billionaire guru with a Midas-like grip on the economy, many business leaders had already quietly backed down from a president who had suppressed trade, inflamed racism, reduced immigration and failed to contain a deadly crisis. pandemic.

But the rejection accelerated after he encouraged a crowd at a rally in Washington and urged them to march on the Capitol on Wednesday.

Since then, tech companies have denied using services for Trump’s political operation.

Payments company Stripe has stopped processing donations for Trump campaign committees, according to a person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because the decision had not been made public. The move could sever Trump’s fundraising arm from what has been a steady stream of small-dollar donations that are often solicited via email and text. Stripe’s decision was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Shopify, an e-commerce platform for merchants to sell merchandise, also shut down the Trump campaign’s merchandise website, as other tech companies including Twitter, Facebook and Amazon impose new restrictions on Trump’s use of their services due to Wednesday’s violence.

Leading business groups such as the National Assn. of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and the United States Chamber of Commerce condemned the insurrection. Yet these same groups also supported Trump’s 2017 tax cuts and will face a Biden administration that wants to raise corporate taxes, a sign they may not fully align with one political party.

What surprised some ethics watchers was how quickly companies responded by suspending donations.

“It seems to be sincere for many companies,” said Craig Holman, campaign finance expert at Public Citizen, a liberal consumer advocacy organization. “There was no great public pressure or pressure for Marriott and others to announce that they would no longer be making campaign contributions. They did it themselves – they shocked everyone in the campaign finance community.

Responses from companies have not been uniform. Dow, the chemical company, said it would suspend contributions for the next two years to any member of Congress who opposes Electoral College certification. Airbnb also said it would decline to support those lawmakers.

Some companies are trying to avoid politics altogether in the wake of last week’s riots. Citigroup confirmed Sunday that it was suspending all federal political donations for the first three months of the year, including those to Democratic lawmakers.

“We want you to be assured that we will not support candidates who violate the rule of law,” said a note from Candi Wolff, Citi’s head of global government affairs. She added that once the presidential transition is complete, the country can “hopefully” emerge “from these events stronger and more united.”

The decision by Citigroup and others to suspend all political contributions outraged some Democrats, who said they were being punished for violence that originated with Republicans and left five people dead.

“Now is not the time to say both sides did it,” Rep. Sean Maloney (DN.Y.) said on MSNBC. “What have Democrats been doing this week other than standing up for the Constitution and the rule of law?”