Lockheed Martin is now the top corporate donor to GOP objectors
In the first six months of 2021, Lockheed Martin has already donated to 53 members of Congress who voted on January 6 to overturn the election results. The defense contractor has donated to more GOP objectors than any other major company, according to an analysis of new FEC filings by Popular Information. Lockheed Martin overtakes Toyota, the previous top corporate donor, which has contributed to the campaigns of 47 GOP objectors. After a backlash, Toyota announced on July 8 that it has "decided to stop contributing to those members of Congress that who contested certain states in 2020 election."
After January 6, Lockheed Martin announced that it was suspending all corporate PAC contributions to evaluate and update "our political action committee contribution strategy to reflect our core values." On Thursday, Lockheed Martin said that it had completed its evaluation and decided to "continue to observe long-standing principles of nonpartisan political engagement in support of our business interests." Thus far in 2021, Lockheed's nonpartisanship has included $77,500 in donations to more than one-third of the Republicans who validated Trump's lies about election fraud by refusing to certify the Electoral College results.
Lockheed Martin is the only individual corporation to donate to the reelection campaign of Congressman Andrew Clyde (R-GA). Clyde reported receiving the donation from Lockheed Martin on June 2, weeks after he compared the January 6 attack to a "normal tourist visit." Clyde claimed it was a "boldfaced lie" to describe the attack as an "insurrection." The rioters, Clyde said, walked "in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos, pictures."
Clyde stood by his statements even though there are photos of Clyde helping barricade doors to the House chamber to protect himself from people he now describes as "ordinary tourists."
Lockheed Martin is contributing widely to Republican objectors at a time when its role in one of the largest government contracts of all time is under attack. The federal government is projected to spend $1.67 trillion to acquire and operate a fleet of F-35 aircraft, which is being produced by a consortium of defense contractors led by Lockheed Martin. The program has been plagued by cost overruns and the aircraft's inability to perform tasked missions.
A report released this April by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the military faces "tens of billions of dollars" in additional "sustainment costs" that are "unaffordable." Further, the F-35 fleet's "full mission capable rate" — which is defined as "the percentage of time during which the aircraft can perform all of its tasked missions" — was just 39%.
In response to the report, House Armed Services Committee Chairman John Garamendi (D-CA) said he would cut off additional funding:
The program's over budget. It fails to deliver on promised capabilities and its mission-capability rates do not even begin to meet the services’ thresholds. Don’t expect more money. Do not expect to have more planes purchased than are in the president’s [fiscal year 2022] budget. That’s not going to happen.
After those statements, Lockheed Martin began to donate to dozens of Republicans that — because of their actions to undermine democracy on January 6 — are still being shunned by many major corporations.
Lockheed Martin is not the only company to take this approach. While Lockheed Martin has donated to the largest number of Republican objectors, it has not donated the most money. That distinction, according to Popular Information's analysis, goes to General Dynamics which has donated $115,000 to 36 Republican objectors.
General Dynamics is a key supplier of parts to the F-35 fleet.
Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) relies heavily on corporate PAC donations to fund his reelection campaigns. In the 2020 cycle, Luetkemeyer raised $1,589,845 from corporate PACs (78.8% of total funds) and just $16,287.05 from individuals donating $200 or less (0.8% of total funds).
In January, Luetkemeyer voted to overturn the election on January 6. According to a March report from Bloomberg, Luetkemeyer threatened to use his position on the House Financial Services committee to retaliate against companies that stopped contributing to his campaign.
Underscoring the potential danger for financial companies, senior Financial Services member Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, a Republican, recently told donors that if corporations were going to put him on an enemies list, he would create a list of his own, said a person who attended the meeting.
Luetkemeyer's Chief of Staff, Chad Ramey, did not deny the report. Ramey said that he "couldn’t discuss the specifics of any meeting," adding that "the congressman has never referred to anyone as an enemy."
For the most part, these threats have not worked. Corporations that maxed out to Luetkemeyer last cycle, including American Express, PNC Bank, and KPMG, have not yet donated to Luetkemeyer. At this time in the 2020 campaign cycle, Luetkemeyer had raised $613,200. Thus far this cycle, Luetkemeyer has raised less than half of that amount, $293,447.
Still, some corporate PACs have resumed donating to Luetkemeyer, including three in the financial sector — Suntrust ($5,000), H&R Block ($2,500), and Regions Financial ($1,000). Other major corporations that have donated to Luetkemeyer this year include Toyota ($1,000) and Ameren ($1,000).
35 major companies that have kept their promises after January 6
There are companies that suspended their donations after January 6 and have resumed donations to Republican objectors. The Washington Post opines that this is "a sign that the promises issued by corporate America were temporary, especially in light of razor-thin Democratic majorities."
But this statement overlooks the fact that many major corporations are keeping their promises. The following major corporations pledged to cut off support to the 147 Republican objectors after January 6 and have not donated to any of them since — either directly or indirectly through multicandidate committees like the NRSC or the NRCC:
Sony Music Group
Universal Music Group
Warner Music Group
Many other companies paused all political giving after January 6 and have not yet resumed contributions — directly or indirectly — to Republican objectors.
These pledges are having an impact. The Wall Street Journal reports that "nearly 100 of the members who voted against certifying the election results and had comparable 2019 data reported receiving less money from corporate and industry PACs for their campaigns in the first half of the year compared with the first half of 2019."
This, of course, could change. There are still 18 months left in the cycle, which is plenty of time for any of the above corporations to resume their donations. But, at this point, many of these pledges remain in force and are having an impact on fundraising.