The dam breaks

Last week, Popular Information contacted 144 corporations and asked if they would continue to support the Republican members of Congress who objected to the certification of the Electoral College vote. We received a trickle of about 15 responses and published the results on Sunday morning. Among those responding, three were particularly notable — Marriott, BlueCross Blue Shield, and Commerce Bank said they would suspend PAC contributions to the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the election results in one or more states. 

On Sunday, Popular Information's report was picked up by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, The Financial Times, Reuters, and many other publications. That coverage prompted several more companies to announce changes. Citi said it would "not support candidates who do not respect the rule of law." JPMorgan suspended all its contributions for six months. 

On Monday, the dam broke. Dozens of companies sent statements regarding their PAC contributions. Popular Information began hearing from companies we had never contacted. There was not only a flood of announcements, but many were far more aggressive in rejecting the Republican members of Congress who tried to subvert the democratic process. 

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Hallmark, in a statement to Popular Information, didn't just rule out future donations from its PAC but demanded refunds from two Senators who objected to the Electoral College vote — $3000 from Josh Hawley (R-MO) and $5000 from Roger Marshall (R-KS).

HALLPAC, Hallmark’s political action committee, supports elected leaders from a wide variety of viewpoints—including Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Hallmark believes the peaceful transition of power is part of the bedrock of our democratic system, and we abhor violence of any kind. The recent actions of Senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall do not reflect our company’s values. As a result, HALLPAC requested Sens. Hawley and Marshall to return all HALLPAC campaign contributions.

Hallmark's demand is a particularly stinging rebuke because it is one of the largest employers in Kansas City, Missouri, Hawley's home state. Many of the 2700 employees that work at Hallmark's headquarters are also Marshall's constituents. Hallmark is not just cutting off their financial support. It is sending a strong message to the communities that Hawley and Marshall represent. 

American Express CEO Stephen J. Squeri, in a memo to employees released to Popular Information, announced that the company's PAC would no longer support any member of Congress who objected to certifying the Electoral College vote. 

Last week’s attempts by some congressional members to subvert the presidential election results and disrupt the peaceful transition of power do not align with our American Express Blue Box values; therefore, the AXP PAC will not support them.

An American Express spokesperson confirmed to Popular Information that the decision was permanent. The company will not donate to these Republicans ever again. 

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Dow, the giant chemical company, told Popular Information on Monday that it was "immediately suspending all corporate and employee political action committee (PAC) contributions to any member of Congress who voted to object to the certification of the presidential election." Dow announced that the "suspension will remain in place" for a minimum of "one election cycle." The suspension "includes contributions to the candidate’s reelection committee and their affiliated PACs."

AT&T, the largest individual corporate donor to the Republican objectors, told Popular Information on Monday that it would "suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes last week." Last week, AT&T said only that it would "weigh candidates’ positions, votes cast and actions taken when making decisions about future PAC support." 

Prominent corporations ending donations to more than half of the Republicans in Congress — permanently or indefinitely —  is unprecedented in American politics. This is how the Washington Post covered the developments:

Other companies who announced they were indefinitely suspending donations to the Republicans who objected to the Electoral College vote include Amazon, AirBnB, Deloitte, Comcast, Verizon, Best Buy and Mastercard

"Simple decency and sober reflection require us to account for the events in Washington this past week –– not just the lawless violence, but also elected US representatives seeking to subvert the decision of the people in the recent Presidential election," Mastercard said in a message to employees obtained by Popular Information.

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The political "pause"

The deluge of announcements created pressure for many corporations to say something about their future PAC donations. Several prominent companies — including tech giants Google, Facebook, and Microsoft — announced that they would "pause" their political giving while they reassess their political giving strategies. 

This is less significant than it seems. We are now in the first quarter of the 2022 election cycle. PACs are limited to $5,000 per candidate for each election. (The primary and general elections are considered two separate elections.) But this early in the cycle, few corporate PACs make significant donations. So these companies aren't committing to do anything that is significantly different from their status quo. And they are leaving open the opportunity for them to continue business as usual after things settle down. 

Some of these companies are hinting that they will withhold future support from the Republicans who tried to overturn the election. Microsoft, for example, acknowledged that it usually pauses contributions in the first quarter anyway but pledged to "take additional steps this year to consider these recent events and consult with employees." 

Other companies that announced a "pause" include Visa, American Airlines, Archer Daniels Midland, UnitedHealth Group, Hilton, and H&R Block. 

Will anyone follow through?

Companies are making these pledges to avoid a reputational crisis in the days following a violent riot at the United States Capitol. But once the spotlight fades, will they actually follow through? 

One fossil fuel lobbyist told the Washington Examiner he does not expect these companies to fulfill their pledges.

Mike McKenna, a fossil fuel industry lobbyist who worked on legislative affairs in the Trump administration, doubts companies taking a stand will fulfill their pledges when it matters.

“The companies that announced that they were pausing political contributions to whoever are being a little weaselly,” McKenna told Josh. “Very few contributions go out the door in January, so pausing contributions doesn’t really mean much. I’m pretty confident that most of the money will eventually flow to the candidates through party, leadership, and other PACs. Like all things involving cash in politics, there’s a lot of misdirection going on.”

Is McKenna right? He is correct that the nation's flimsy campaign finance laws provide companies with all sorts of options. Popular Information will monitor the PAC activity and other political giving of every company that has made pledges over the last few days. 

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