Corporations expand donation freeze to members of Pennsylvania legislature

Over the last week, dozens of companies have announced that they are suspending donations to the 147 Republicans in Congress who objected to certifying the Electoral College vote. The objectors sought to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power based on unfounded allegations of voter fraud and other improprieties. A larger group of companies have announced they are pausing donations to Republicans and Democrats in Congress. 

These companies do not want to be associated with members of Congress who helped incite a violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attack that left five people dead. But members of Congress weren't the only elected officials bolstering false claims that the presidential election was stolen. Dozens of state legislators from Pennsylvania also played a key role. 

Now, in response to inquiries from Popular Information, several major corporations say they are also freezing political contributions to some or all members of the Pennsylvania legislature. 

At least 79 members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate sought to use their elected position to advance baseless claims of voter fraud and overturn the results. On December 4, 64 Republican members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate, including Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler, wrote to the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation and asked them to ignore the will of Pennsylvania voters.

3 U.S.C. §15, empowers Congress to reject electoral votes that are not ‘regularly given’ or ‘lawfully certified.’ ...we the undersigned members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly urge you to object, and vote to sustain such objection, to the Electoral College votes received from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021. 

On January 4, 21 Republican members of the Pennsylvania Senate, including Senate President Jake Corman, wrote to all Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate. The State Senators urged Congressional Republicans to oppose "certification of the Electoral College," citing "unlawful violations" and "inconsistent and questionable activities." 

Fueling the fire

Trump seized upon the letter from Pennsylvania Senators to incite his supporters. The day before the riot at the Capitol, Trump tweeted the letter, claiming it constituted "BIG NEWS" about election fraud.

The day before the riot, to fuel Trump's charges of election fraud, "Pennsylvania Republicans refused to seat state Senator Jim Brewster, a Democrat who won a tight race in the western part of the state by 69 votes." They also "removed Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, a Democrat, as presiding officer of the Senate because he attempted to seat Brewster." Brewster was seated a week later after Republicans lost a challenge in federal court. 

Many signatories of the letters are also "attempting to amend Pennsylvania’s constitution and change how state Supreme Court judges are elected after lawsuits to overturn the election… were denied by the state court."

Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano, who signed both letters, "met with Trump regarding Pennsylvania's election at the White House and held a hearing for the president’s lawyers in Gettysburg to attempt to further legitimize the unsupported allegations."

In a January 4 radio interview with right-wing host Eric Metaxas, Mastriano described the fight to overturn the election as a "deathmatch with the Democratic Party."

Mastriano then previewed the January 6 events:

President Trump himself will be speaking to the people, congressmen and women and senators will be up on the stage and be introduced as the fighters and warriors. And then we're going to march over to the Capitol…

In a December 21 appearance on a radio show devoted to QAnon conspiracies, Mastriano compared fighting the election results to fighting hijackers trying to crash a plane on 9/11. “Todd Beamer, an adopted son of Pennsylvania from Cranbury, New Jersey, saw the terrorists take over Flight 93. And he said, ‘Let's roll.’ So Pennsylvania, it's time to roll again,” Mastriano said. 

Mastriano "used campaign funds to rent buses for his supporters to travel from Chambersburg to Washington." He was at the Capitol at the time of the riot but claimed to have left before it became violent. 

After the riot, Corman claimed that voter fraud claims did not play "any role" in inciting the violence. 

Q: House Democrats yesterday called on state Republicans to accept some responsibility for some of the violence that we saw at the U.S. Capitol last week because of unproven voter fraud claims. What role do you think that played?

CORMAN: I don’t think it played any role.

Politifact rated Corman's claim, "Pants on Fire." 

Support Accountability Journalism

Will corporations continue to support 79 Pennsylvania legislators who tried to overturn the election?

Popular Information contacted 51 corporations who, through PACs, donated to Pennsylvania House Speaker Cutler and Pennsylvania Senate President Corman in 2020. Each corporation was asked if it would continue to support the 79 members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate who opposed certification of the electoral college. 

On January 13, The Indianapolis Star reported that pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly would "stop contributing to the campaigns of those who voted against certifying the Electoral College." Eli Lilly said "any candidate we support to demonstrate respect for people and respect for our democratic process and institutions." In a statement to Popular Information, Eli Lilly confirmed that this policy would apply to members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. 

As previously announced, any candidate we support through LillyPAC must have a record that is consistent with Lilly values. We expect candidates and elected officials to demonstrate respect for people, our democratic process, and our public institutions. Lilly’s Government Affairs team, with oversight from the LillyPAC Board, takes this responsibility seriously and is taking steps to ensure candidates we support, whether federal or state, align with our values.

In 2020, Eli Lilly donated $4,000 to Corman and $500 to Cutler. 

PNC, which had “suspended contributions to those members of Congress who voted against the certification of the nation’s valid Electoral College votes,” told Popular Information that its PAC “will continue to review the actions and positions of other legislators and candidates for their consistency with PNC’s values when considering political contributions.” PNC donated $7,500 to Cutler in 2020.

Eight companies that had previously announced a pause in all donations to Congressional candidates — Chubb, First Energy, UPS, Liberty Mutual, Marathon Petroleum, Boeing, Amgen, and Microsoft — told Popular Information that their policies extended to members of the Pennsylvania legislature. 

Hershey's said that it traditionally donates "to legislators located in districts where we have facilities, including our seven U.S. manufacturing plants." But it has "not made any donations in 2021" and is "currently evaluating our giving for this year." In 2020, Hershey donated $1,000 to Corman. ExxonMobil, which donated $5,000 to Corman and $5,000 to Cutler in 2020, also responded to Popular Information's inquiry without disclosing its future plans. 

Many other corporations, including several that have taken strong stands against the 147 members of Congress who objected to the Electoral College, did not respond to requests for comment. 

Comcast, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, said that a "peaceful transition of power is a foundation of America’s democracy," and therefore, it would "suspend all of our political contributions to those elected officials who voted against certification of the electoral college votes." But when asked if it would suspend contributions to 79 members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate who took the same position, Comcast did not reply. In 2020, Comcast donated $39,000 to those members, including $6,500 to Corman and $8,500 to Cutler. 

AT&T, Walmart, GE, and Verizon have also stopped contributing to the Republican objectors in Congress but did not respond to questions about Pennsylvania elected officials. 

This is a full list of the companies contacted by Popular Information that did not respond: 

Abbott Laboratories, Ahold Delhaize, Allstate Insurance, Altria Group, AT&T, Bayer, Cabot Oil & Gas, Chesapeake Energy, Cigna, Comcast, CVS Health, Enterprise, Exelon, FedEx, General Electric, Glaxosmithkline, Highmark, Independence Blue Cross, Johnson & Johnson, J.P. Morgan & Chase, JUUL Labs, K&L Gates, Koch Industries, Merck, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, Motorola Solutions, Nationwide Mutual Insurance, Norfolk Southern, Novartis, Reynolds American, Pfizer, Philips North America, Quest Diagnostics, SHEETZ, UnitedHealth Group, Verizon, Walmart, and AstraZeneca.

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