In just the first few months since the insurrection, corporate and industry PACs have contributed more than $2.6 million to campaigns, leadership PACs, and party committees allied with the 147 members of Congress who fed the Big Lie that led to the deadly attack on the Capitol. In all, 170 business PACs—some of which had previously committed to stop giving—have donated to political committees that support and defend the members who voted not to certify the election results.
Corporate political giving has long been a corrupting force in Washington—with lawmakers depending on it for their political survival, while businesses use the donations to gain access to the officials who make decisions that will impact their bottom line. In the wake of the attack on the Capitol, the situation is worse: Corporate contributions are now increasingly an obstacle to holding elected officials accountable—not only for pushing the baseless conspiracy theories that caused the attack, but also for continuing to make excuses for it.
Top recipients of corporate cash
So far, at least 103 of the 147 members of the so-called Sedition Caucus, along with the two main GOP congressional party committees, the NRSC and NRCC, have benefited from corporate giving after January 6. The ten members with the most corporate donations as of the end of March, which is the latest date for which data is available, have netted more than $22,000 each from an average of ten business PACs per member.
Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA), ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, tops the list with $44,000 from 17 corporations and industry groups—many of which have significant interests in agricultural policy, like Koch Industries, John Deere, the Florida Sugar Cane League, and the National Chicken Council.
At number two on the list is Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), who reportedly threatened to create an enemies list of companies that pulled their donations after he rejected the election results. The threat appears to have worked. He has brought in $41,000 from industry PACs including Toyota, the National Association of Realtors and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Luetkemeyer is particularly vulnerable to boycotts from corporate PAC donors because PAC contributions made up 80% of his total fundraising last cycle, while small donors accounted for less than one percent of his overall fundraising.
Representatives Byron Donalds (R-FL) and Kat Cammack (R-FL), two members who voted to overturn the election and have since continued to associate with the group behind the January 6th rally that preceded the Capitol attack, have also continued to bring in corporate contributions, totaling $16,000 and $8,000, respectively, as of the end of March. Both members have received support from the Florida Sugar Cane League, whose members include the U.S. Sugar Corporation, the country’s largest producer of sugarcane.
How the Republican Party has benefitted
The NRCC and NRSC—the two main party committees backing Republicans in the House and Senate—have brought in a combined $1.7 million from PACs tied to more than 57 companies and industry groups. The list includes household names like Pfizer, Intel, T-Mobile, and CVS, as well as PACs tied to trade groups that represent industries as varied as real estate, mortgage banking, and insurance agents.
Some of these donors might object to being called out for giving to party committees. After all, giving to a party committee is not the same thing as giving directly to a member of Congress. But the fact of the matter is that these committees exist to promote and defend Republicans in Congress. The money flowing into party coffers will inevitably benefit members of Congress who are complicit in one of the single most shameful and undemocratic acts any U.S. political party has ever associated itself with, and it may particularly benefit those members whose fundraising has sagged as a result of their participation.
The NRSC itself is currently headed by Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), who was one of eight senators who voted not to certify the results of the election—a decision he stuck with even after seeing the violence and destruction caused by believers of the Big Lie.
On the House side, nearly 70% of Republicans voted not to certify the results of the election. None of these members has faced censure or punishment, and indeed some are actively trying to whitewash the attack. Until Republicans in Congress make significant changes and address the beliefs that are corrosive to our very democracy, it is only reasonable for contributions to these party committees to be counted as support for the antidemocratic actions taken by the members of Congress they exist to defend.
It only took a matter of days after the deadly insurrection for contributions to start flowing into the party coffers and campaign funds of members who helped to foment the violence. For example, the campaign of Alabama freshman Senator Tommy Tuberville, a staunch Trump ally who voted not to certify the election results, reported a total of $10,000 in contributions from Birmingham law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings on January 14th, just days after the insurrection. The firm has lobbied the Senate and House in 2021 on behalf of clients including the GEO Group, one of the country’s largest private prison companies, and the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association, a trade group representing iron pipe manufacturers.
Less than three weeks after the insurrection, Applied Research Associates, a federal contractor with the Department of Defense, gave $5,000 to Representative Jim Banks (R-IN), who sits on the House Armed Services Committee. The company lobbied Congress earlier this year on defense appropriations.
By late January, the floodgates were starting to open. Within the first month after the insurrection, 13 business PACs had given a total of at least $65,500 to the NRSC and ten of the 147 members who voted not to certify the election results. A month later, that total had ballooned to more than $702,000 from 53 industry groups, backing 48 members and both party committees. By the end of March, not even three months after the insurrection, the total broke $2 million, and it continues to rise.
Some of these contributions came from the PACs of major companies that had initially released statements saying that the insurrection would factor into their future giving. The health insurer Cigna, for example, released a statement after the insurrection saying that it would “discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered a peaceful transition of power.” But within a month, its PAC was back to making contributions, starting with a $15,000 contribution to the NRSC, soon followed by another $15,000 to the NRCC.
Asked in March about the disconnect between its original statement and its political giving, a company spokesman told Popular Information, “In January, our PAC discontinued support of any elected official that encouraged or supported violence on January 6th, and that remains true.” The updated statement made no mention of its original commitment not to support those who “hindered a peaceful transition of power.” Cigna’s political giving now stands at $42,500 to seven members and both party committees.
Similarly, in early January, Toyota told Popular Information in a statement that “given recent events and the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, we are assessing our future PAC criteria.” Yet, its PAC started giving again less than a month later and has now given more than $50,000 to 35 members.
In all, PACs tied to at least six companies or industry groups—including AT&T, Pfizer, Jetblue, and the National Association of Realtors—have started giving again, forsaking commitments they made after January 6.
Despite a big showing from corporate PACs, the biggest donors so far are PACs tied to trade associations that represent the interests of large industries or groups of professionals. For example, the single largest donor to the Sedition Caucus to date is the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, which counts major insurance companies like Nationwide and Liberty Mutual as “Diamond Partners.” The CIAB has given a total of $182,000 to 19 Sedition Caucus members and both congressional Republican party committees. Other groups representing industries as varied as real estate, cotton farming, and health underwriters have all given tens of thousands of dollars to these same members.
The need for reform
Lawmakers’ reliance on corporate cash has never been more obvious. We need accountability for the corporate PACs and industry groups that broke their commitments and reverted back to business as usual. We also need reform. The For the People Act, now with the Senate, aims to diminish corporate influence in politics by amplifying small donors, requiring more dark money disclosure, and getting rid of deadlocks at the FEC.
For all the corporations that have already gone back on their commitments, 228 companies have, so far, held to their promises to stop giving either to all members of Congress or the 147 who voted not to certify the election results. If any of them decide to break their promise, we will be watching.