12 Companies Start Giving to Election Objectors Again

·7 min read

At least a dozen corporate PACs that paused political contributions after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol have resumed giving money to officials who objected to the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to The Daily Beast’s analysis of recent campaign finance disclosures.

The largest donor of the group is defense contractor Lockheed Martin, which last month racked up 31 contributions between $1,000 and $2,500 to members of the so-called “sedition caucus,” federal filings show. Notable companies also include UPS, Ford, General Motors, and multinational law firm McGuireWoods.

All but one—American Express—had pledged to suspend contributions to all federal candidates in the wake of the Capitol riot. But AmEx went even further, releasing a statement five days after the insurrection vowing specifically to pull its funding for elected officials who attempted to “subvert the presidential election results and disrupt the peaceful transition of power.”

“I know this has been an unsettling period for many, but, like many times throughout our history, our Blue Box Values will continue to serve as our beacon, helping us to do what is right and act with the highest level of integrity,” wrote AmEx CEO Stephen Squieri.

But then, on April 16, AmEx gave $2,500 to the Republican Legislative Victory Fund. That group bankrolls Arizona Republican state senators, who for several weeks prior to the donation had been organizing a plan to do exactly what the AmEx CEO decried: subvert the election results, through a bizarre and controversial audit of 2020 presidential votes cast in Maricopa County.

These Mega-Businesses Are Already Back to Bankrolling Insurrectionists

The GOP-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors blistered the Senate’s effort as a “grift disguised as an audit.” And on the day AmEx cut the check, Talking Points Memo reported that right-wing conspiracy theorists, led by QAnon attorney Lin Wood, were pouring money into the project.

American Express did not reply to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

No other financial companies appear to have gone back on their pledge. But The Daily Beast found multiple companies in the transportation, energy, and defense sectors which have ended their short freeze after the Capitol Riot and immediately—and often quietly—thrown financial support behind officials who six months prior had attempted to undermine American democracy.

Lockheed gave a statement to The Daily Beast that framed its suspension as entirely unrelated to the events of Jan. 6: “Following the customary ‘start of a new cycle’ evaluation of our political engagement program, our PAC program will continue to observe long-standing principles of non-partisan political engagement in support of our business interests.”

Another defense firm, Leidos Engineering (formerly SAIC), donated to 15 objectors in May—second only to Lockheed—and additionally gave to leadership PACS belonging to two of those 15 Republicans. Three other Pentagon contractors who had suspended donations—Northrup Grumman, Boeing, and Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering—also wrote recent checks to officials who sought to overturn President Biden’s victory.

A Leidos spokesperson provided a statement saying the company had adopted a new “values criterion” in the wake of what it called “the attack on the U.S. Capitol.” New Leidos donations, the spokesperson said, will take into account a candidate’s “integrity and character.”

One of the company’s recent beneficiaries, election objector Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), voted in late May to block a Jan. 6 commission, saying he’d “rather be fishing or golfing.”

Such ethical concerns appeared common. In a lengthy statement released days after the Capitol Riot, midwest power company Ameren called Jan. 6 “a profoundly sad day in American history,” and vowed to suspend donations in light of those “violent activities.” Last week, Ameren filed an FEC report revealing contributions to five Jan. 6 objectors.

Ameren did not reply to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

In January, energy producer Occidental Petroleum also said it would “re-evaluate” its political giving strategy in order to ensure its contributions land with “candidates who support our interests and align with our values.” Occidental has since made only two donations—$15,000 apiece—and they went to the official national committees that fund Republican incumbent candidates for the House and Senate. The Senate committee is chaired by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who challenged the Electoral College results.

Occidental also did not respond to a request for comment.

Businesses frequently give money to candidates they believe will best advance their interests before the government. And while the law bars companies from giving directly to officials, employees can form corporate PACs that raise cash from workers and distribute it to candidates of their choosing.

For large companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, most of that PAC money often comes from executives and in-house lobbyists. But that’s not necessarily true across the board, and corporate PACs can only give candidates a comparatively small amount of money: $5,000 per election, primary and general.

There’s good political reasons for some of these companies to resume giving to these GOP officials.

UPS, for instance, has a major stake in bipartisan negotiations surrounding a major infrastructure spending package. And those negotiations were front and center—and in turmoil—when the company PAC made $5,000 donations to election objectors Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) late last month. Graves serves as Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Hudson is a low-ranking member of GOP leadership, the conference’s secretary.

But amid public outrage after the attack on the Capitol, dozens of companies announced changes to their contribution strategy. The initial commitments made headlines, and most companies upheld their pledges, though not all.

The choices varied. Some corporate PACs—including those belonging to financial firm Charles Schwab, Cirrus Aircraft, and on Monday, multinational heavy-duty manufacturer Komatsu—have shut down entirely. Hallmark requested donation refunds from objecting Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Roger Marshall (R-KS), though disclosures show the senators appear not to have obliged. Other companies, such as American Express, iced contributions specifically to officials who objected to Biden’s win.

Most companies took a bipartisan, across-the-board approach though, putting all giving on indefinite hiatus. That angered some Democrats, who argued they were being punished unfairly, and it only took a few months for headlines to turn cynical. The moves also irked Republicans, some of whom took a proactive approach, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who in a Wall Street Journal op-ed said he was rejecting money from “woke CEOs.”

While some companies, such as JPMorgan and Citigroup, have told the public they were turning the money faucet back on, others did not.

In April, Ford Motors announced its PAC would resume giving to federal candidates. And last week the carmaker reported its first new donations to election objectors—gifts in May to Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Graves.

In a statement, a Ford spokesperson told The Daily Beast its contributions “take into consideration many issues that are important to meeting the needs of our customers, our team, and our company.”

But Ford’s chief domestic rival, General Motors, did not make such an announcement. Last week, GM disclosed its first direct contribution to an election objector—Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). And in late April, filings show, the manufacturer gave a previously unreported $25,000 donation to the Scalise Leadership Fund, a joint fundraising committee supporting election objector and House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).

Asked for comment, a GM spokesperson offered a statement foregrounding the company’s support for candidates who “understand the importance of a robust domestic auto industry as we pursue an all-electric vehicle future.”

But it’s unclear whether Scalise and Cole share that vision. Scalise has repeatedly pushed back this year against government investment in electric vehicles, telling E&E News in March that the “battery in your electric car is doing a lot more damage to the environment than a combustion engine.” Cole also targeted gas-free vehicles in an April 19 op-ed that opposed “far-left programs such as an environmental justice initiative and billions of dollars for electric vehicles.”

A month later, GM sent Cole a check.

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