There is a saying that “Talk is cheap,” but the rhetoric spewed by members of Congress who opposed Joe Biden‘s electoral college certification comes at a cost.
The 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed certification of the presidential election earlier this month have lost the support of many of their largest corporate backers. 20 out of 30 firms that gave the most money to election-objecting lawmakers’ campaigns through political action committees said they have pledged to suspend some or all payments to their PACs.
The split between company responses shows how U.S. executives are still grappling with the recent political bloodshed and its ripple effects across the corporate landscape. The attempted insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 led to calls for companies and wealthy donors to disavow lawmakers who continue to propagate dangerous myths about the election and has prompted a broader rethinking of the role of PAC giving among the nation’s top companies.
The dollar amounts given by corporate PACs tend to be relatively small: They can legally give each candidate’s campaign only up to $5,000 per election. But the donations can help ensure companies access to key policymakers overseeing their industries. In addition, though companies cannot tell their employees who to donate, research has shown that most employee donations follow the lead of their employer. This ‘follow the leader’ donation model often translates into millions of dollars and a loyal voter base.
These donations attach corporate benefactors to politicians in visible ways, which can affect their images in the eyes of customers and employees. For many companies, the risk of upsetting their customers outweighs the benefits of supporting these rogue politicians.
An example of continuing to pedal falsehoods about the election and its consequences is MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has lost major retailers due to his rhetoric.
The 30 corporate PACs that donated the most money to the 147 election objectors gave a total of $37 million from 2015 to 2020. Of that amount, nearly $26 million came from companies that now say they have suspended donations.
Some of the strongest repudiations of the Republican lawmakers came from AT&T, Comcast, Honeywell, PricewaterhouseCoopers, General Electric, KPMG, and Verizon. These firms all said they would suspend donations to members of Congress who voted against certifying Joe Biden as president.
These moves may seem altruistic, but with a transfer of power and a shift at the end of the campaign cycle, companies are not expected to give as much to Republicans right now. Companies may actually welcome a rationale to opt-out of campaign contributions, and this wave of corporate activism gives them an excuse to say ‘no.’
The true test for these donors will come when the eyes of the nation are no longer on them, and they decide behind closed doors who they want to put their money behind.