Corporations have reverted back to donating millions to election objectors

·4 min read

One year ago, supporters of Donald Trump carried out a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol based on false claims of a stolen election. That day, 147 Republican lawmakers voted to overturn the election results of at least one of the states that voted for Joe Biden.

Major U.S. corporations responded by vowing to halt donations to Republicans who objected to certifying Joe Biden as president. But the money began trickling back to those lawmakers within months. Now, a host of new research around the one-year anniversary of the attack finds that millions of dollars are once again flowing freely to these Republicans from businesses as well as individuals.

"The way that has played out over the past year has not been necessarily in line with what all of the companies promised," Anna Massoglia, investigative researcher at a transparency group called OpenSecrets, told Yahoo Finance Live on Thursday.

She adds that some "have gone back to political giving somewhat entirely over the past year."

Her group — a DC-based nonprofit that has tracked money in politics for decades — finds that election objectors are among the top fundraisers overall among Republican lawmakers heading into this year’s midterm elections.

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. - Donald Trump's supporters stormed a session of Congress held today, January 6, to certify Joe Biden's election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — who voted against certifying Arizona’s vote before visiting Trump in Florida a few weeks later — raised nearly $9.1 million in the first nine months of 2021, according to the group. That puts him as the highest fundraiser in the House Republican conference.

Renewed corporate giving

OpenSecrets is not the only group looking into funding of election objectors. A self-described nonpartisan, progressive group called released an “interactive report” around this week’s anniversary focused on 30 corporations and trade groups — from Chevron to the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association — whose “promises were broken when they funneled millions of dollars to election objectors in Congress.”

The group says that over $8.1 million in corporate or trade group donations have flowed to the 147 members of Congress in recent months. Topping the list of givers is the American Bankers Association with $203,000 in donations. The publicly traded companies high up on the list include Boeing (BA), Raytheon (RTX), and UPS (UPS). The group says $1.2 million flowed to the lawmakers last November alone.

Another report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) pegs the total much higher. CREW says 717 corporations and industry groups have sent a full $18 million towards these members of Congress since the insurrection based on the fact that it counts donations directly to lawmakers as well as the money flowing to their leadership PACs and party committees that support them.

And even $18 million is not a complete accounting, Massoglia says. "[Companies] have a number of other ways to flex their political muscle, such as giving through what are called dark money groups," she added, referring to those organized as 501(c)(4) nonprofits that don't have to disclose their donors.

"There may be a lot more happening behind the scenes," she says.

Employee sentiments also looked at the issue from the perspective of employees. The group surveyed full-time white collar workers in November and December and found 62% said they would be more favorable to their employer if they knew it publicly opposed the insurrection. Over half of those workers would be less favorable to their employer if they knew it donated to a lawmaker who supported the Jan. 6 attack.

"I think the message to businesses is that they can't ignore or avoid these consequential issues," Matt Canter of Global Strategy Group, which partnered on the survey, told Yahoo Finance.

The pressure has had some concrete effects. Toyota (TM) made headlines last year for its donations to election objectors but then announced in July it was suspending donations to those 147 lawmakers.

But it remains a tricky balance for companies. A wave of media polling released this week found a committed number of Americans still falsely believe Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud.

In just one example, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that only 9% of Trump’s voters think Joe Biden “won fair and square.” Similarly, the Strategy Group survey found that Republicans are largely split on their companies and donations. Thirty-three percent of Republicans said knowing their company donated to a Jan. 6 candidate would actually make them more favorable to them compared to 31% who would feel less favorable.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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