Michael Hiltzik: Corporations 'suspend' political donations — but Citizens United is the real problem

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Reading the ever-lengthening list of big corporations reconsidering their political contributions in the wake of last week's GOP-inspired insurrection on Capitol Hill, one might be tempted to think that a sea change in big-money influence on our elections is upon us.

The roster certainly is eye-catching. More than two dozen public companies have announced that they'll suspend all political donations for anywhere from a few months to the foreseeable future, or will cease funding for the 147 Republican senators or House members who objected to the certified results of the electoral college.

Among them are American Express, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Citibank and AT&T. (Judd Legum's Popular Information newsletter is maintaining an up-to-date list.)

You should hold your applause, for several reasons.

One is that many of these donors enthusiastically bankrolled some of the politicians now in their hall of shame for years while it was obvious that they were working against the public interest by supporting gerrymandering and other forms of voter suppression.

The companies are professing to see things in a new light after the consequences of their support became graphic with Wednesday's riot on Capitol Hill. But they can't cleanse themselves of the stink now any more than the Trump administration figures abandoning his sinking ship.


Second, some of their reappraisals are suspiciously vague.

Some referenced last week's insurrection — Bank of America, for instance, said it would "review its decision making criteria in light of the actions that contributed to the appalling violent assault on the U.S. Capitol."

But many others left the connection unspecified. And there appears to be no record thus far of a company disavowing any political contributions in the future.

Moreover, suspending contributions at this stage of the political calendar is the equivalent of a free pass. The first months of a new political cycle — especially at the dawn of a new presidential administration — are a relative dead period for election fundraising. No one will really notice the drying up of corporate spending unless it persists past midyear 2021.


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