PAC money to electoral count objectors fell 10 percent
Group fighting corporate political money calls response a slap on the wrist
Donations from corporate and trade association PACs declined in the 2022 cycle by 10 percent to Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 election for President Joe Biden, according to an analysis of campaign reports by Accountable.us.
The nonpartisan group, which seeks to curb corporate influence in politics, looked at the political action committees of Fortune 500 companies and more than 700 trade associations and found the 10 percent dip between the 2020 and 2022 cycles to the election objectors who ran in both elections. Accountable.us shared its findings first with CQ Roll Call.
The Jan. 6, 2021, votes against certifying electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania followed an attack on the Capitol by rioters trying to keep then-President Donald Trump in office despite his loss in both the popular and the electoral vote. After the attack, many business and industry PACs announced they would pause donations to lawmakers who voted against upholding the election, and some paused all donations.
Accountable.us found that overall, the 10 percent drop meant PACs gave $3.7 million less to those lawmakers than they did in the previous election cycle. Most business PACs restarted donations before the 2022 election, especially as Republicans appeared favored to win the majority in the House. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana are among the 147.
The pauses, though mostly temporary, have created some lasting friction among congressional Republicans and the business community that corporate lobbyists have sought to smooth.
Accountable.us spokesperson Jeremy Funk said the decline in donations amounted to “little more than a slap on the wrist from corporations that claim to have a problem with anti-democratic behavior.”
“The biggest corporations have failed to stand up for democracy since January 6th in a significant way,” Funk said. “Too many companies have tried to have it both ways: win recognition from consumers and shareholders for condemning the violent assault on our democracy, but stay in the good graces of politicians that tried to finish what the insurrectionists started. ”
Representatives of company and business PACs said they were not surprised about the decline, adding that many corporations and associations reevaluated their giving criteria and reassessed whom to support.
“Most Fortune 500 companies tightened their contribution criteria after the events of Jan. 6, and many met with the 147 Republicans to explain why they had done so,” said Kristin Brackemyre, director of PAC and government relations for the Public Affairs Council. “We're not surprised at all to see business PAC donations down for the House and Senate members who voted against certification.”
The legal maximum for corporate and association PAC donations, unlike individual contributions, is not adjusted for inflation each cycle.
“For the 2022 election cycle, we saw employee-funded and association PACs continue to rely on their governance and contribution criteria to make the best decisions for their employees and/or members,” said Micaela Isler, executive director of the National Association of Business Political Action Committees, in an email. “While some politically motivated groups are keen to limit or outright ban political speech coming from millions of employees, we believe it’s up to individual PACs to make their giving decisions. Employee-funded and association PACs are the most regulated, accountable, and transparent form of political giving available, and we need more voices in the political process to help solve our country’s problems.”
Accountable.us said it found, in its analysis of Federal Election Commission reports using its corporate donations tracker through the end of 2022, that almost half of the decrease in donations between the 2020 and 2022 cycles can be accounted for by companies and trade groups that did not donate to election objectors at all during the 2022 cycle.
Additionally, 80 percent of corporate interests that temporarily paused donations account for a $2 million reduction in donations to objectors. Some of the PACs that paused for most of the 2021-2022 cycle restarted as the election approached last November, including Amazon. An Amazon spokesperson told CQ Roll Call last year the decision to suspend donations was never meant to be permanent and that the PAC had given to members “who share our views on issues that are important to our customers and our business in general.”