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Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s Corporate Donors Want Their Money Back

Companies say contributions made before lynching comments became public; law makes that unlikely

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s re-election campaign has been marred by comments the NAACP has said call back to Mississippi’s bloody history of lynchings. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s re-election campaign has been marred by comments the NAACP has said call back to Mississippi’s bloody history of lynchings. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Half a dozen corporations have asked Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith to reimburse their contributions to her runoff campaign.

The companies have been under intense scrutiny in recent days for their financial support of the senator in the wake of her remark that she would be “on the front row” of a “public hanging” at a campaign stop earlier this month. The NAACP has said her comments evoke Mississippi’s bloody history of lynchings. 

The video has drawn new attention to her runoff race against Democratic challenger and former U.S. agriculture secretary Mike Espy, who is black.

The corporations say the remark does not reflect their values.

Public ire has centered on blue-chip companies whose contributions showed up in Federal Election Commission records after the video surfaced: Google, Walmart, AT&T, Union Pacific, Leidos, Pfizer and Boston Scientific.

A Walmart spokeswoman said Hyde-Smith is the first candidate from whom the company has looked to revoke a donation.

All of the companies have asserted they made the contributions before Hyde-Smith’s comments became public, though campaign finance law makes that unlikely.

Within 20 days of an election, campaigns must publicly report all donations within 48 hours. The Hyde-Smith campaign reported Nov. 18 donations from Walmart, Union Pacific, Leidos and Boston Scientific, a full week after the video surfaced on Nov. 11.

The campaign listed donations from major trade associations such as the American Chemistry Council and white shoe consulting firms like Foley & Lardner LLP in the same Nov. 18 report.

An independent reporter with the newsletter Popular Information first reported the donations. 

The Hyde-Smith campaign reported the $5,000 contribution from Google on Nov. 13, two days after the video surfaced. 

Google asserts the check was dated Nov. 2. That coincides with the date Hyde-Smith made the “public hanging” comment, though it was not made public until a week later. 

However, the Hyde-Smith campaign said it received the donation from Google on Nov. 13 and reported it the same day. The campaign maintained it has reported donations in accordance with the 48-hour rule in a statement to the Clarion Ledger on Nov. 15. 

“We have complied with all campaign finance laws,” a spokeswoman said. 

NAACP President Derrick Johnson has drawn a parallel from Hyde-Smith’s remarks to President Donald Trump, who will campaign with the embattled senator on Nov. 26, one day before voters go to the polls. The remarks “prove once again how Trump has created a social and political climate that normalizes hateful and racist rhetoric,” Johnson said in a statement shortly after the video surfaced.

“Hyde-Smith’s decision to joke about ‘hanging,’ in a state known for its violent and terroristic history toward African-Americans is sick,” he said. 

Hyde-Smith’s voting record closely aligns with the White House’s policy agenda; the senator has campaigned on building a wall at the southern border with Mexico and supported the president’s ban on travel from several Muslim-majority countries. 

Hyde-Smith has touted her support of Trump on the campaign trail — even referring to her campaign bus as the “MAGA wagon” — and repeatedly mentioned his upcoming visit during a debate Tuesday night.

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