April 24, 2024

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Truly Business

Amazon, Citigroup among companies pausing U.S. political donations after Capitol siege

4 min read

Republicans in the U.S. Congress faced growing blowback on Monday from businesses that said they would cut off campaign contributions to those who voted last week to challenge president-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

The announcements by Dow Inc., American Express and Amazon, among others, threaten to throttle fundraising resources for Republicans who will soon be out of power in the White House and both chambers of Congress.

“Given the unacceptable attempt to undermine a legitimate democratic process, the Amazon PAC [political action committee] has suspended contributions to any member of Congress who voted to override the results of the U.S. presidential election,” Amazon spokesperson Jodi Seth said.

Hallmark Cards Inc. and MasterCard both confirmed they were suspending donations after reports earlier by Popular Information, a political newsletter.

Greeting-card giant Hallmark, based in Kansas City, Mo., and a large employer, said in a statement its political action committee requested Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, both of whom objected to Biden’s certification, return all campaign contributions.

Trump supporters breached security and violently entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress debated the 2020 electoral vote certification. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It said the actions of the two senators “do not reflect our company’s values.” It also condemned the storming of the Capitol by protesters intent on disrupting the certification. “The peaceful transition of power is part of the bedrock of our democratic system, and we abhor violence of any kind.”

Representatives for Hawley and Marshall did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

U.S. wireless carrier Verizon, meanwhile, will suspend donations by its political action committee to lawmakers who did not back the certification of Biden’s victory last week, a spokesperson told Reuters. AT&T announced a similar move earlier on Monday.

‘They’re abandoning ship’

Other firms, including Ford Motor Co., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc., said they would temporarily suspend donations to both parties.

That amounts to a dramatic shift for businesses that typically spread their money widely around Capitol Hill to ensure access. Last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol has prompted some to reassess that approach.

“It’s a sign [President Donald Trump’s] power is gone and they’re abandoning ship as quick as possible,” said Prof. Duane Bratt, who teaches political science at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

He said corporate America has previously coddled Trump because of tax cuts and conservative judge appointments, but much like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, they can now afford to move away from the president due to the imminent handover of power. 

In addition, the Capitol siege surpassed any of the president’s past controversies, Bratt said. 

“Even [Richard] Nixon wasn’t abandoned like this,” he said. “Of course, Nixon actually resigned instead of trying to overthrow Congress.”

At least five people died last Wednesday when Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol in an effort to prevent lawmakers from certifying Biden’s victory. Lawmakers were forced to hide from the mob for several hours.

When they reconvened, 139 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to challenge Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania or Arizona, even though both states already formally certified the results and election officials say there were no significant problems with the vote.

Rioters try to break through a police barrier on Wednesday. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

Seven Republicans in the Senate also voted to challenge the Arizona results.

Those voting yes included the top two House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, and Sen. Rick Scott, who as incoming head of the national Republican senatorial committee will head up efforts to win back the Senate in the 2022 elections. All of their jobs require extensive fundraising. None immediately responded to a request for comment.

Cut off for how long?

The sheer extent of the Republican opposition will make it difficult for businesses to simply cut off those who voted against certifying Biden’s victory, said a senior Republican business strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity. Roughly two-thirds of all House Republicans, including seasoned legislators and vocal Trump partisans, supported the challenge.

Business groups will be watching closely over the coming weeks to see whether those Republicans make gestures to re-establish a sense of normalcy, such as attending Biden’s inauguration, the strategist said.

“Each of those people are going to be scrutinized,” the strategist said. “Are they all going into the bucket of ‘no contributions’? I would be shocked if they all get put in.”

Fundraising is currently at a post-election lull in Washington, giving businesses and trade groups some time to figure out their approach.

People who breached security are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate chamber on Wednesday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/The Associated Press)

Trade groups, in particular, will likely need time to take the temperature of their members.

The National Association of Beer Wholesalers said last week’s actions “require that we all pause and reflect on that support.”

The trade group gave a total of $768,500 US in the last election cycle to Republicans who voted to challenge Biden’s victory, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.

Other top donors, including the National Association of Homebuilders and the National Association of Realtors, have yet to make a decision, spokespeople said.

One analyst said the boycott may not be permanent, as businesses will want to ensure their phone calls are returned by lawmakers from both parties.

“Memory is short and corporate assets last a long time,” said Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners. “I’m not sure that we can conclude anything definitively based on statements and patterns this week.”

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