Lots Of Corporations ‘Paused’ Political Donations After Jan. 6. And Then…

Eli Lilly and Company, Pharmaceutical company headquarters in Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images)

In the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, scores of companies put out statements on their plans to “reevaluate,” or outright stop, their donations to members of Congress who had voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

After a year of political giving, the numbers speak for themselves. 

Seven companies who pledged in some form to pause donations specifically to members of Congress who interrupted the peaceful transfer of power subsequently gave thousands of dollars to them or their leadership PACs, according to campaign finance data analyses by the political newsletter Popular Information, watchdog group Accountable.US and TPM: Cigna, Comcast, Eli Lilly, Exelon, Home Depot, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Walgreens.

More than a dozen others stopped donating to members but still donated to party committees that support those Republicans’ campaigns, a loophole of sorts. Dozens more said they’d be suspending all political giving — only to resume contributions within months of the Capitol attack.

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In all, corporations and trade groups that released statements condemning the Jan. 6 attack collectively donated more than $2.1 million in 2021 to members of Congress who voted to overturn the election, according to campaign finance records tracked by Accountable.US. 

If you include not just the members of Congress themselves but also party organizations like Republicans’ congressional campaign committees, which help fund their campaigns for reelection, that number gets closer to $5 million, according to figures from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

‘A Vibrant Pharmaceutical Ecosystem’

Many of those initial corporate statements following the attack were flimsy expressions of concern, if that. Corporations and trade groups spoke of “suspending” or “pausing” their political giving, only to dump tens of thousands into the campaign coffers of members of Congress who voted to subvert democracy. 

The American Bankers Association PAC — which according to Accountable.US was the largest single corporate or trade group donor last year to members who backed Trump on Jan. 6 — told Business Insider a week after the insurrection, “As we do after every election, we will meet with all of our stakeholders in the coming weeks to review our political activities from the last campaign cycle before making any decisions about future plans.” 

“The troubling events of the last week will certainly be a consideration in those discussions,” the PAC said. 

The group began donating to multiple election objectors in June, and in all of 2021, it gave $255,500 to 77 objectors, in sums of between $1,000 and $7,500 each, according to Accountable.US. 

Eli Lilly, the drugmaker, told the Indianapolis Business Journal the week following the attack that its political action committee, LillyPAC, “will suspend political giving to those who voted against certification of the 2020 election results.”

The suspension didn’t last: Eli Lilly gave $32,500 to 15 objectors over the course of 2021. 

“In July 2021, LillyPAC, our employee political action committee, lifted the candidate contribution pause and resumed contributions on a case-by-case basis so we can continue our support for those Members across the political spectrum who understand the value of a vibrant pharmaceutical ecosystem to address unmet patient needs,” a spokesperson for the company told TPM. 

Exelon, another company that paused and then restarted donations to election objectors, told TPM in a statement, “Following the events on Jan. 6, 2021, we made the decision to reassess our political contribution strategies and pause contributions from ExelonPAC to those lawmakers who voted to contest the results of the presidential election. Going forward, we continue to believe we can more effectively advocate on behalf of our customers and communities by engaging with policymakers in areas where we find common ground.” 

Walgreens, which made a similar commitment in August, ultimately gave $24,000 to 11 objectors in November and December, according to Accountable.US.

Some pledges were too clever by half: Cigna initially pledged to halt donations to “any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered the peaceful transition of power.” It has now donated $43,500 to 20 members who voted to object to the election results. The company told The New York Times in April that congressional votes themselves — apparently even those against counting swing states’ presidential electors — were “by definition, part of the peaceful transition of power,” and that its pledge “applies to those who incited violence or actively sought to obstruct the peaceful transition of power through words and other efforts.”

Comcast donated $2,500 each to seven election objectors in December, despite also saying last January that it would suspend giving to that group. 

Goldman Sachs, which said after the attack that it would pause all PAC donations for “a thorough assessment of how people acted during this period,” donated $2,500 in December to Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), a member of the House Financial Services Committee who, as Popular Information noted, reportedly threatened to create a list of his own for corporations who he said might have put him on an “enemies list.” 

A spokesperson for Home Depot, like other companies contacted by TPM, stressed that the company said only that it was “pausing” its donations after the Capitol attack.

“We said that we were pausing donations to take time to review and reevaluate each of the members who voted to object to the election results before considering further contributions to them,” the spokesperson said. “As always, we evaluate donations against a number of factors. Our PAC supports candidates on both sides of the aisle who champion pro-business, pro-retail positions that create jobs and economic growth.”

What Counts? 

Assessing political giving in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack can get tricky. Take Oracle, the software company. On Jan. 17, Oracle announced on Twitter that its PAC had “decided to pause” political giving to anyone who’d voted against certifying the election. 

And they’ve stuck by that promise: In 2021, the Oracle PAC donated $7,450 to Republican members of the House and $14,000 to Republican senators, none of them election objectors, according to data from Open Secrets

On the other hand: Oracle’s PAC donated $15,000 each to Republicans’ congressional campaign organizations, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which have no qualms about spending loads of money on the reelection campaigns of objectors. A spokesperson for Oracle declined TPM’s request for comment. 

Similar contributions were made by Sanofi, Verizon and Walmart, Popular Information reported.

Overall, however, the pause in donations from corporate America isn’t insignificant: Corporate giving to insurrectionary Republicans has slowed significantly.

As Popular Information reported last month, out of 94 House Republicans who were incumbent in 2019 and were running for reelection as of 2021, corporate PAC donations dropped by 60% between the two years, a $16 million collective drop — though some members have made up the loss with small-dollar individual contributions. 

And dozens of corporations have kept their pledges and kept their money away from both individual objectors and multi-candidate committees. Some, including American Express and Microsoft, are even recommitting for 2022

The donations that do benefit would-be election thieves make their way to the very top: According to Accountable.US, the top recipients among election objectors were also the most influential: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).

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