GOP election deniers get corporate PACs’ cash again in 2022 bet

Bill Allison

Corporations have resumed donations to Republican lawmakers who objected to certifying the 2020 presidential election results the day a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, betting that the GOP will retake the House in November’s midterm elections. 

Political action committees for business interests including Koch Industries Inc., Valero Energy Corp., United Parcel Service Inc., and Lockheed Martin Corp., together have given $16.1 million to the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory over former President Donald Trump, a Bloomberg analysis of Federal Election Commission disclosures show.

In the aftermath of the violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of the former president, dozens of companies and trade associations announced that they would pause political giving, particularly to those who objected to the election results, or review their contribution policies. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, took in the most from business PACs, with more than $1 million through his campaign, leadership PAC and a joint fundraising committee.

But with the 2022 midterm elections approaching and the strong likelihood that Republicans will retake a majority of House seats, many groups have quietly resumed giving to election objectors. Some firms never altered their policies and continued to donate to lawmakers who aligned with their business interests. 

“Saying you’re cutting off the objectors was a great press release at the time but the reality is that the GOP is going to win back the House,” said Terry Campo, a political lawyer. “Corporations are practical more than ideological.”

Koch was the biggest donor, pouring $430,000 into the campaigns and leadership political action committees of objectors. Its billionaire chairman and chief executive officer Charles Koch, a major Republican donor, didn’t support Trump. 

The company condemned the Jan. 6 riots and at the time said it would continue to consider civility and commitment to a free and open society when giving donations. The PAC gave contributions to more than a third of the members who objected to certify the 2020 presidential election. 

A spokesperson for Koch didn’t return a message left for comment. 

Valero was the second-biggest donor, giving $262,500. The San Antonio-based oil refiner was among companies last year that said it would pause and reevaluate its donation policy. It didn’t respond to messages left for comment, either. 

American Crystal Sugar Co., which made no changes to its policies, was the third largest donor, giving $260,000. It declined to comment. Lockheed Martin donated the most among defense contractors at $237,000. 

“Our employee PAC program continues to observe long-standing principles of non-partisan political engagement in support of our business interests,” Lockheed said in an emailed statement.

Raytheon Technologies Corp., contributed $210,000. It declined to comment. 

GM was also among companies that initially paused donations. But its PAC has since given $122,500 to the lawmakers who objected to the election results. 

“In the wake of the insurrection we paused the GM Employee PAC contributions to evaluate our criteria, at which point we strengthened our governance. We resumed contributions later in the year,” said spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan.

Pfizer, known for delivering the first Covid-19 vaccine in the U.S., was the top donor among pharmaceutical companies with $54,500. It said that it supports policymakers who value innovation and expanded access to medicines and vaccines.

“Following the events of January 6, 2021, the Company adhered to its commitment to pause political giving to the 147 Members of Congress who voted against certifying the election for six months. Monitoring elected officials’ conduct and statements is a part of our governance process, and we will continue to do so as we consider future Pfizer PAC disbursements,” Pfizer said. 

UPS gave $259,500. A spokesman declined to comment about the company’s political giving. The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers was also among the biggest donors with $259,000. The group didn’t return a message left for comment. 

The analysis included contributions reported by PACs to campaign committees, leadership PACs and joint fundraising committees of the 147 Republican election objectors. For most PACs, data covered Jan. 7, the day after the insurrection, through Nov. 30. Some PACs elect to file semiannually and have reported contributions through June 30.

Financed by voluntary donations from company employees, corporate PACs typically give to both parties, depending on how it benefits the company’s regulatory agenda. 

It’s not surprising that business PACs have resumed giving to objectors, says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

“They are designed to give to incumbent members who have the ability to grease the skids on their legislative agenda,” she said. “While these people remain in office, they will be magnets for corporate support.”

The House is narrowly divided, with Democrats holding 221 seats compared to 213 for Republicans and one seat vacant. The Senate is deadlocked at 50-50. 

Historically, the president’s party loses seats in the midterms. Nearly two dozen Democrat lawmakers have announced that they won’t seek re-election. Redistricting in a number of Republican-led states also favors a GOP majority in November. 

Among lawmakers, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, took in the most from business PACs, with more than $1 million through his campaign, leadership PAC and a joint fundraising committee that also raises money for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Minority Whip Steve Scalise was second with $965,800 donated to his committees.

McCarthy and Scalise were among Republicans who objected to certify Biden’s win.  

Business PACs refrained from giving to some of the most vocal proponents of Trump’s unfounded claims that fraud was the reason for his 2020 defeat. None gave to Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, or to fellow Republican Matt Gaetz, of Florida.

Representative Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican, who’s made anti-Muslim remarks about Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, got donations from the Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas industry trade association, for $1,500 and from the National Federation of Independent Business, which gave $1,000.

“Our PAC supports politicians like Rep. Boebert who advance legislation we strongly agree with,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Alliance, said, “and she represents one of the important producing basins in the West.”

With assistance by Riley Griffin, Julie Johnsson, Ryan Beene, David Welch, Thomas Black, Gerson Freitas Jr, and Marvin G Perez