Anti-Trump PAC launches ad campaign against Toyota over donations to election objectors

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Washington — The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group, is re-launching an ad campaign against Toyota Motor Corp. for resuming political donations to members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021.

"America's free-market, democratic system has been good for companies like Toyota for a very long time," the Lincoln Project's ad released Monday says. "So why would Toyota support politicians who try to overthrow the very system that's been so profitable for them?"

The digital ad campaign will begin Tuesday, targeting the top 25 Toyota dealerships in the country and the automaker's U.S. headquarters in Plano, Texas, Lincoln Project spokesperson Greg Minchak said. The ad will also run on CNBC in Plano and in New York City beginning Wednesday. He did not say how much the group is spending on the campaign. 

The Lincoln Project is a political action committee that was created in 2019 by former Republicans to oppose former President Donald Trump's re-election. The group first took out ads against Toyota last July, and the automaker promptly reversed course and announced it would cease such donations, The Detroit News first reported.

Like many other companies, Toyota announced it would temporarily withhold and review PAC donations after Trump supporters mobbed the U.S. Capitol building and after 147 Republicans in Congress objected to the Electoral College results from select states later that evening in an attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden's election as president. 

But the company's PAC resumed donations to some of those members as early as Feb. 4 — within a month of the insurrection — with a donation to Rep. Alex Mooney, R-West Virginia, according to campaign finance filings.

Since reversing course in July, Toyota's political action committee resumed giving to some of those members according to campaign finance filings, including a $1,000 donation last month to Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton. 

"After a pause of six months, during which time Toyota had extensive discussions with internal and external stakeholders, Toyota’s employee PAC, like others in the auto industry and nearly 800 companies and industry groups nationwide, has resumed contributing to some members of Congress," Toyota spokesperson Edward Lewis said via email.

"We will not support those who, by their words and actions, create an atmosphere that incites violence. Toyota’s employee PAC will continue its long history of giving equally to Democrats and Republicans based on the best interests of our company, workforce, and the U.S. automotive industry.”

Toyota is not alone — a Detroit News review of filings earlier this year found several Michigan companies that had pledged to stop or alter donations following Jan. 6, 2021, resumed contributions, including Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., DTE Energy and Rocket Companies. 

The Lincoln Project is targeting Toyota "because they said they would stop making the donations, and when they thought no one was watching, they did it again," said Minchak. "We are constantly watching how companies spend their money, and will say more about what it means that corporate America puts cynical politics over democracy."

Toyota has donated $99,500 total to 54 Republican election objectors since Jan. 6, 2021, according to the newsletter Popular Information

Twitter: @rbeggin