In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, many of the nation’s largest corporations pledged that they would suspend donations to elected officials who opposed the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, hindered the peaceful transfer of power or incited violence. Some said they would stop contributing all together.
The vast majority kept their word, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
“There was a lot of cynicism around the announcements when they first were made,” said Judd Legum, the founder of the Popular Information newsletter, which focuses on the role of money in politics. But “it wasn’t just empty statements, these filings look different than they would have looked had they not made those statements.”
New fundraising disclosures filed Friday show, however, that several businesses that made the pledge, including Cigna, AT&T and Intel, gave at least $75,000 to 37 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying the election results and six of their associated political action committees. These companies also gave $45,000 to GOP campaign arms for the Senate — run by an anti-certification senator — and the House, where two-thirds of the Republican caucus opposed recognizing the election results.
The Times analyzed campaign finance disclosures of 200 companies that vowed to change their donation policy for the period from Jan. 6 through March 31 — contributions made after the insurrection in the first quarter of the 2022 election campaign — and compared them with a similar period two years ago in the first quarter of the 2020 election cycle.
During the first three months of 2019, these corporations gave about $2.8 million to the 147 GOP elected officials who later voted to not recognize the presidential election results, and to their associated political action committees.
This year’s vastly scaled-down donations are part of a broader recalibration by business of their role in politics and policy. While corporations traditionally use their money and influence to sway legislation that affects their bottom line, they occasionally veer into less self-interested policy during times of societal upheaval, such as the civil rights or gay rights movements, said Timothy Werner, associate professor of business, government and society in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.
“It’s really rare for a corporation to do this completely of their own volition,” he said. “It’s almost always prompted by a social movement of some type, or some type of actor that’s trying to use them as a means to achieve a bigger goal.”
In recent weeks, that has led to corporations criticizing a new voter law in Georgia and speaking out against GOP legislative proposals to restrict voting in Texas.
But the Jan. 6 votes on the certification of the presidential election and the riot at the Capitol kicked off the most vocal wave of corporate conscience in recent memory from some traditional GOP allies.