Shortly after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, which was motivated by Trump's lies about election fraud, Comcast — the parent company of NBC Universal — released the following statement:
The peaceful transition of power is a foundation of America’s democracy. Consistent with this view, we will suspend all of our political contributions to those elected officials who voted against certification of the electoral college votes, which will give us the opportunity to review our political giving policies and practices.
This was significant, especially because Comcast was the second-largest donor among corporate PACs to the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the election. In the 2020 cycle, Comcast donated $755,000 to 95 Republican objectors.
In the last six months, like most companies who made similar pledges, Comcast has not donated to the individual reelection campaigns of those 147 Republicans. But, according to new FEC filings released this weekend, Comcast is among the companies that have pursued other ways to support these same candidates. This suggests that its January statement was more about public relations than principles.
On May 16, for example, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) reported a $15,000 contribution from Comcast. The NRSC is chaired by Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) who voted to overturn the election and is organized to support all Republican Senators, including Scott and the other seven who voted to overturn the election. Moreover, Scott has used his position as NRSC chair to amplify and legitimize Trump's lies about the 2020 election.
In April for example, Scott traveled to Trump's resort in Mar-a-Lago to present him with the NRSC "Champion for Freedom Award." The award does not exist. Scott invented it to ingratiate himself with Trump.
Trump subsequently appeared in an NRSC fundraising video in which he pledged to "take back the White House – and sooner than you think." The comment was widely interpreted as a reference to the conspiracy theory, advanced by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and others, that Trump will soon be reinstated as president.
In June, the NRSC promoted Trump's endorsement of Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), who voted to overturn the election on January 6 and is up for reelection in 2022. The same day the NRSC promoted Trump's endorsement, Trump released a statement calling the last presidential election the "2020 Presidential Election Scam." The NRSC similarly promoted Trump's endorsement of Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who is also up for reelection, and described the January 6 attack on the Capitol as "by and large a peaceful protest."
Further, on May 21, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) reported a $15,000 contribution from Comcast. The NRCC will support the reelection of more than 130 Republican House members who voted to overturn the election on January 6.
The NRCC has also closely aligned itself with Trump to raise funds. As recently as April, its fundraising page warned donors that "If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you’re a DEFECTOR." The checked box made an individual donation recur monthly. It was removed after the New York Times exposed the deceptive tactic.
The NRCC fundraising page continues to promote donations to "stand with President Trump."
Standing with Trump means validating his false claims about election fraud. Just this month, Trump has released six statements claiming the 2020 election was stolen.
Whether or not Comcast's donations are technically consistent with its January statement is debatable. Is donating to the NRSC, which is chaired by Scott and supports the election of Kennedy, consistent with a pledge to "suspend all of our political contributions to those elected officials who voted against certification of the electoral college votes"? Regardless, the donations to the NRSC and the NRCC prove that Comcast's January statement was more about appearances than actually denying resources to these politicians.
Comcast is not the only company that pledged to withhold donations to Republican objectors and then donated funds to the NRSC and the NRCC. Other major companies taking the same approach include Walmart, General Electric, Intel, AT&T, Pfizer, Sanofi, and Oracle.
The audacity of McGuireWoods LLP
McGuireWoods is one of the largest and most prominent law firms in the United States. In April, the firm signed a letter organized by the Black Economic Alliance, which called the 2020 election "the most secure in American history" and pledged to "oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot."
None of this is reflected in the most recent FEC filing for McGuireWoods' corporate PAC.
On May 15, McGuireWoods' PAC donated $15,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). The organization was involved in the ultimate denial of voting rights — trying to overturn a valid election. The policy arm of RAGA, the Rule of Law Foundation, sent out robocalls just before January 6 encouraging people to "march to Congress" and "stop the steal."
The person running the Rule of Law Foundation at the time, Peter Bisbee, was promoted. Bisbee is now the executive director of RAGA. The organization also represents Attorneys General around the country that are promoting voter suppression laws that McGuireWoods allegedly opposes. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), for example, is encouraging states around the country to restrict voting based on false claims of voter fraud. In December, Paxton filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court demanding millions of votes be discarded in four states.
Companies that are contributing directly to Republican objectors
Several companies that said they were suspending all donations following the January 6 violence have resumed corporate PAC donations to Republican objectors.
After January 6, for example, defense contractor Leidos issued the following statement from CEO Roger Krone:
Violence, lawlessness, and anarchy have no place in our nation. We believe in civil political discourse and the fundamental right to peacefully protest, but strongly condemn violence or intimidation. In light of these events, Leidos’ Political Action Committee (PAC) has decided to temporarily pause all political donations.
The pause did not last long. Leidos' latest FEC filing reveals the company donated $23,000 in May directly to Republican objectors. This includes $1,000 to Congressman Barry Moore (R-AL) who was among a handful of votes against a bill "to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the law enforcement agencies that protected the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot."
Other companies that announced they were suspending contributions in January but resumed contributions to Republican objectors in May include UPS, Ameren, and Bloomin' Brands, the parent company of Outback Steakhouse. Companies that suspended all political contributions in January but resumed contributions to Republican objectors earlier this year include JetBlue, GM, Altria, and Northrop Grumman.