Corporate funding of sedition keeps growing
Since the January 6th insurrection, more than two thirds of the corporations who announced they would no longer support members of Congress who refused to certify Trump’s loss have abandoned their commitment. And many others have continued to fund sedition without batting an eye.
On January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in an effort to overturn the results of a free and fair election after being commanded by President Trump to “fight like hell.” Swiftly following the attack, corporate America correctly placed blame on the 147 members of Congress who fanned the flames by refusing to certify Trump’s loss. Nearly two hundred fifty companies announced they would no longer support the so-called Sedition Caucus. But since the January 6 insurrection, more than two thirds have abandoned their commitment.
Corporate and industry group political action committees have donated more than $44 million directly to the campaigns and leadership PACs of the 147 members of the Sedition Caucus. Companies and trade associations that pledged to suspend donations have given more than $12 million to the campaign and leadership PACs of the Sedition Caucus.
Koch Industries ($626,500), American Crystal Sugar ($530,000), Home Depot ($525,000), Boeing ($488,000), and UPS ($479,500) have contributed the most money to members of the Sedition Caucus through their corporate PACs. In the days after January 6, many of these companies vowed to use their political spending to hold those members of Congress responsible. Boeing released a statement that they “strongly condemn the violence, lawlessness and destruction that took place in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021,” but demonstrated their lack of concern when they resumed giving to seditionists just five months after the insurrection. Koch Industries claimed they would evaluate the members they donate to based on “civility” following the attack. How they define that is questionable, however, as they resumed giving to seditionists two months later. Home Depot suspended donations while “carefully reviewing and reevaluating each of the members who voted to object to the election results,” but evidently decided that taking part in an effort to thwart the peaceful transfer of power was not a dealbreaker.
|Top Corporate Donors to Campaigns and Leadership PACs||Total|
American Crystal Sugar said explicitly that they would support the Sedition Caucus to protect their business interests “if and when we have needs.” UPS, which suspended all PAC contributions after the violent siege, similarly defended their decision to resume giving by asserting that “engagement with those with whom we disagree is a critical part of the democratic process and our responsibility in legislative advocacy as a company.” These statements starkly demonstrate corporations’ dependence on a specific type of political influence – gained by buying it with political donations. By their own admission, many companies are putting their bottom lines ahead of their stated values and our democracy during a time of historic fragility. The stability provided by rule of law and a functioning democracy is crucial for businesses too, and it’s in their long term interests to stand firm against the forces that would undermine it.
These corporations have spread their wealth far and wide, with many making contributions to dozens of seditionists. Lockheed Martin has lined the pockets of 90 of these members with $432,000, while UPS has given $477,000 to 79. Koch Industries, the top donor on the list, has given to 78 members, and American Crystal Sugar has given to 77.
Corporate pledges to democracy abandoned
In the days after the insurrection, nearly 250 companies suspended donations to members of the Sedition Caucus. Less than two years later, less than a third of those companies have kept their promises. Some resumed giving just months after the riot, highlighting the emptiness of their public stances. Other companies have only recently increased their giving, maybe because they think no one’s watching anymore, or because some political pundits anticipate that the Republican Party could regain control of one or both chambers of Congress.
AT&T donated to election objector Jim Banks’ leadership PAC just a month after pledging to cut off donations to seditionists. The company offered the flimsy excuse that the leadership PAC promised not to use AT&T’s donations to support the Sedition Caucus. This year, AT&T isn’t even pretending. Since January, AT&T has given $338,000 to 70 of these members. Home Depot refrained from giving for nearly a year until December 2021. The company has since opened the floodgates of contributions, quickly becoming the third biggest corporate donor to the Sedition Caucus. Donations made in 2021 and 2022 all count towards the same election cycle, so a year-long abstention is a distinction without a difference in terms of keeping seditionists in office.
Publix also has a strong financial connection with the Sedition Caucus. Julie Fancelli, heiress to the supermarket chain, donated $650,000 to three groups involved in organizing and promoting the rally that preceded the insurrection. The company—which Fancelli no longer has any role in—stated in December 2021 that it was “deeply troubled by Ms. Fancelli’s involvement in the events that led to the tragic attack on the Capitol on January 6.” But Publix apparently has no problem supporting the Sedition Caucus. Its criticism of the donations came after the company had already donated $5,000 to three members whose votes to overturn the election continued to fuel the Big Lie even after the attack. In fact, Publix has actually ramped up its giving after condemning Fancelli’s donations, giving $13,000 to 8 seditionists this year.
In May, CREW published a report on the companies still abiding by their pledges. Since then, 16 of those companies have abandoned their commitments and resumed donating to the Sedition Caucus. One of these donors, American Express, had committed to stop supporting the Sedition Caucus in order to “do what is right and act with the highest level of integrity.” In January of this year, the credit card company unequivocally vowed to “never donate to the 147 Republican objectors again.” But less than six months later, it abandoned its promise and gave $15,000 to two election objectors. Even though American Express kept its promise for nearly a year and a half, it ultimately gave the maximum amount allowed to two seditionists in the current election cycle, just months after renewing its pledge. Mastercard, which condemned objections to certifying election results as “subvert[ing] the decision of the people,” also recently ended its commitment to upholding the democratic process when it gave $5,000 to Blaine Luetkemeyer in August.
Many companies that have recently abandoned their promises have donated to members who have continued to cast aspersions on the election results and downplay the significance of January 6. Metlife has given $35,500 to nine seditionists, including Beth Van Duyne who said that if she didn’t object to the vote, future elections would be subject to “tyrannical” rules. 3M has given $1,000 to Michael Burgess, who called the deadly insurrection a “bad protest” similar to protests against the Affordable Care Act. Gilead Sciences has given $2,000 to John Joyce and Richard Hudson, who said the January 6 committee will give the GOP “strong appetite for revenge.” Other companies that have recently resumed giving to the Sedition Caucus include Kraft Heinz ($4,000 to four seditionists), State Farm ($11,000 to six seditionists), and ViacomCBS ($1,000 to one seditionist). Election deniers at the state level have also received thousands of dollars from corporate PACs, including from Boeing, Walmart and Home Depot.
Top trade associations donating to election objectors
In addition to individual companies, industry groups that represent particular sectors, known as trade associations, have also continued to fund the Sedition Caucus through their PACs. These groups have given $19,718,221 to the campaign and leadership PACs of the 147 election objectors. The top donors are the National Association of Realtors ($779,000 to 122 members), National Beer Wholesalers Association ($593,500 to 118 members), American Bankers Association ($526,500 to 106 members), Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers ($486,500 to 75 members), and the Credit Union National Association ($436,000 to 74 members).
|Top Trade Association Donors||Recipient Members and Leadership PACs||Total|
Trade associations are funded by dues paid by corporate members, which can be used to support an affiliated PAC. These payments may provide a workaround for companies to reap the benefits a political contribution affords, without the blowback. For example, while Bank of America denounced the “appalling violent assault” on the Capitol and has so far kept its promise to stop donating to seditionists, it is a member of several trade associations, including the American Bankers Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that have given a total of $1,012,500 to election objectors. Allstate has also suspended donations to the 147 seditionists, but it is a member of trade associations, including the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that have given $330,500 to the objectors. If these companies wanted to maximize their commitment to democracy, they would stop paying dues, or leverage their status as some of the country’s biggest financial companies to make the trade groups they belong to stop donating too.
Corporate priorities: access and influence
Corporations engage in politics strategically, targeting their donations to those lawmakers with power over their industries to gain access and influence. Corporate giving to the Sedition Caucus is no different. These donations lay bare corporate priorities: many companies would rather have access to a broken system than make a modest contribution to fixing it.
Three of the top recipients of aerospace engineering and defense contracting company Boeing sit on the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense. The other top recipient of funds from Boeing, Mike Rogers, is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Steve Scalise and Richard Hudson have received $20,000 and $17,500 from the oil and gas company Valero, respectively. Telecommunications giant AT&T has given $338,000 in total to members of the Sedition Caucus, including six members who sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
Two months after the insurrection, Blaine Luetkemeyer, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee and is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, reportedly threatened to make an enemies list of companies who stop giving donations. Since then, he has received $1,284,800 in corporate and trade group PAC contributions, including from financial services companies like American Express, Mastercard, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Capital One, PNC Bank and H&R Block, all of which suspended donations after January 6. Luetkemeyer is also the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Small Business and has received thousands of dollars from trade associations like the Small Business Investor Alliance and the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers. Steve Scalise, who has received the second most corporate and industry support with $1,927,050, is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He’s received contributions from several companies and trade associations representing the oil and gas industries.
The companies upholding democracy
Out of the hundreds of companies who, in the wake of the violent January 6 insurrection, made commitments not to donate to members of the Sedition Caucus, 69 have kept their promises to date and continued to lead by example. The companies on this list span across industries, from tech companies like Microsoft, to retail companies like Nike, to hospitality industry giants like Marriott and Hilton. They include household names like Disney and Target as well as local and lesser-known brands. There are likely other companies that have stopped donating to seditionists without announcing a commitment to do so.
These examples show that it is possible for companies big and small to take a sincere stand in favor of democracy, underscoring the unscrupulousness of the companies still supporting seditionists. Our democracy is in peril. The least corporate America could do is not support those who are part of the grave threat.