Where things stand
A week ago, Popular Information began contacting 144 companies and asked if they would continue supporting the Republican members of Congress who objected to the certification of the Electoral College. By the time we published our first report, on Sunday morning, three companies — Marriott, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Commerce Bank — responded that they would suspend donations to the 147 members that tried to subvert the democratic process. This quickly became national news.
Today, at least two dozen major corporations have suspended their donations to the Republican objectors, a group that includes two-thirds of the Republicans in Congress. The list of companies cutting off their financial support now includes Walmart, Amazon, Disney, Verizon, GE, Airbnb, Comcast, Morgan Stanley, Nike, American Express, and Dell.
This is something that has never happened before. And the significance is reflected in the coverage.
While some corporations are taking bold stands, others are attempting to navigate the new reality without "taking sides." Dozens of companies — including Bank of America, Target, Google, Facebook, JP Morgan, and Visa — have suspended all political giving while they "review" their policies.
These companies are saying very little. There is always very little corporate PAC activity at the beginning of a campaign cycle. Announcing a temporary pause in political giving that is not targeted to the members of Congress who attempted to subvert the democratic process doesn't amount to much at all.
Some of these companies may be trying to buy time until the controversy fades and hope to quietly resume business as usual. Atlantic 57 CEO Kate Watts, who consults with Fortune 100 companies on brand strategy, told Popular Information that this tactic will backfire.
Brands merely ‘pressing pause’ on their political contributions are setting themselves up for reputational havoc. Brands need to immediately take stock of their values and start living them, without delay. Otherwise, it’s going to be Groundhog Day, just more cycles of crisis. Radical transparency is the new normal, and companies aren’t going to be able to keep their political contributions and affiliations in the shadows, off the radar.
Popular Information will be closely monitoring corporate PAC activity over the coming months and years. This will reveal which companies were serious about reforming their practices and which were just posturing.
You can support this work — and help us do more of it — by becoming a paid subscriber.
If the cost of this newsletter ($6/month or $50/year) would create any kind of financial strain, I hope you stay on this free list. We've eliminated the paywall for the duration of the pandemic. But, if you can afford it, please consider a paid subscription.
More corporations suspend donations to the Republican Attorneys General Association
On Wednesday, Popular Information reported the activities of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) and how they were implicated in Wednesday's violent riot. Specifically, RAGA's self-described "policy arm," the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), sent a robocall driving people to participate in the "March to Save America." The robocall urged "patriots" to congregate at the White House and then "march to Congress" to "stop the steal."
In response to inquiries from this newsletter, three companies that had donated tens of thousands of dollars to RAGA last year — Facebook, Lyft, and Doordash — announced that they would suspend their contributions. University of Phoenix, which donated over $50,000, told Popular Information it was demanding an immediate refund.
After the story was published, Popular Information learned that five more major corporate donors — Instacart, Yelp, Smithfield Foods, The Edison Electric Institute, and the Recording Industry Association of America had also decided to freeze their contributions to RAGA.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Popular Information publishes Monday through Thursday, but will be off Monday for MLK Day. We’ll return to your inbox on Tuesday, January 19.