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Amazon, other PACs resume donations to electoral objectors

Nearly 20 businesses and groups restarted giving to lawmakers who voted against certifying the presidential election

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik are among the 147 lawmakers who opposed certifying electoral votes after the attack on the Capitol.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik are among the 147 lawmakers who opposed certifying electoral votes after the attack on the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After suspending donations to Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election, a collection of PACs, including those of Amazon and Caterpillar, restarted contributions ahead of midterm elections in which the GOP is favored to win House control.

Most business and industry political action committees that announced pauses after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol had already resumed giving to all lawmakers, including the 147 lawmakers who opposed certifying electoral votes from two states after the attack, Federal Election Commission filings show. 

In total, company and trade group PACs donated more than $2.2 million to those 147 members in September and early October alone, according to a new analysis of FEC records by Accountable.US, shared first with CQ Roll Call. Since the Jan. 6 attack, business and industry PACs’ donations to those lawmakers have totaled more than $30 million, the group said.

The initial PAC freezes following Jan. 6, combined with a reduced number of in-person events because of the pandemic, led to a decline in donations from such coffers earlier in the election cycle. But by this fall, the fundraising scene had returned almost to normal.

Some of the 147 Republicans will hold important leadership roles and committee gavels in the next Congress, if their party wins control. They include Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who could become speaker; Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana; and Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York. Two of the three contenders for the top GOP spot on the House Ways and Means panel (Adrian Smith of Nebraska and Jason Smith of Missouri) are among the 147. 

Amazon’s PAC disclosed giving about $17,000 in September and early October to nine of the 147, including Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Tom Cole and Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma. 

“The Amazon Political Action Committee has long given to members of Congress who share our views on issues that are important to our customers and our business in general,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email. “When we announced shortly after the attack on the Capitol in January 2021 that we would suspend donations to members of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, it was not intended to be permanent. It’s been more than 21 months since that suspension and, like a number of companies, we’ve resumed giving to some members.”

Caterpillar’s PAC gave nearly $100,000 to 27 of the 147 lawmakers, including McCarthy, Scalise, Adrian Smith and Jason Smith, records show. A spokesperson for the heavy equipment manufacturer did not provide a comment.  

Other groups and companies that restarted giving to the 147 in September and early October include the PACs of Oracle, the American Supply Association and Loews Corp. All told, nearly 20 companies and groups restarted their giving to the 147 during the campaign’s final months, and their contributions totaled almost $200,000. 

To give an indication of the shift, in the first quarter of 2021, PACs gave less than $500,000 total to the 147. By contrast, in the third quarter of this year, they reported donations of $5.7 million, according to Accountable.US’ analysis of federal campaign records.

Part of that difference is because donations usually surge closer to elections, and House members may not be as focused on fundraising early in a congressional term since they have only recently finished campaigns. But Accountable.US, which describes itself as a nonpartisan watchdog over public officials and corporate interests and has been tracking PAC donations to the 147 Republicans this election cycle, said the late donations may signal something else.

“It’s essentially a wink and a nod from corporations that at the end of the day, they’ll be there to support lawmakers determined to undermine democracy when they think the public is no longer paying attention,” said Lindsey Melki, an Accountable.US spokesperson.

A trade group for business PACs said the donations were not extraordinary.

“Employee-funded and association PACs have proven that they are the most transparent, accountable, limited and regulated form of political giving,” said Micaela Isler, executive director of the National Association of Business Political Action Committees. “They regularly review their giving criteria, engage directly with their PAC boards and consistently communicate with their donors.”

Isler said the group was hopeful lawmakers would “realize the value employee-funded and association PACs have in bringing more, not fewer, voices to our political discourse.”

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