Dow, Marriott Lead Boardroom Backlash on Congress Vote Objectors

Dow, Marriott Lead Boardroom Backlash on Congress Vote Objectors

January 22, 2021

Several major U.S. corporations are punishing Republicans in Congress who voted last week against certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory by cutting off campaign contributions to them after a violent pro-Donald Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

A larger number of companies — from Wall Street to Silicon Valley — are enacting broader steps by suspending all political contributions at the federal or state level.

With Congress taking steps to impeach Trump and groups like the National Association of Manufacturers urging that he be removed from office, corporate America was scrambling Monday to distance itself from any Republicans who tied themselves to Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. Some are considering wholesale changes to how they approach political contributions.

The list of corporations announcing changes to their contribution policies snowballed after the political newsletter Popular Informationasked 144 companies about their support for members who voted against certifying Biden’s win.

Such a vote is usually routine, but this year, eight senators and 139 representatives — all Republicans — voted against certifying the presidential election results from Arizona, Pennsylvania or both, even after a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, breaking windows and stealing furniture in a melee that killed five people.

Four of those companies — The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association,Dow Chemical Co. and the hotel chainMarriott International Inc. all said they would suspend contributions to those members of Congress.

Since then,Goldman Sachs Group Inc. andMastercard Inc. said they were considering a similar measure.

Kansas City-basedHallmark Inc. went even further, demanding that two GOP senators — Josh Hawley of Missouri and Roger Marshall of Kansas — refund their contributions. Hawley and Texas Senator Ted Cruz have faced the harshest reactions for their continued false claims that there was evidence of fraud in the Nov. 3 election worth challenging and possibly overturning the results.

Simon & Schuster canceled a book deal it had with Hawley, Biden compared the two senators to Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and both have faced calls for their resignations.

But many more companies say they’re temporarily suspending all federal campaign contributions — regardless of party — while they reassess their corporate giving. Those include Wall Street firms likeBlackRock Inc.,Morgan Stanley andJPMorgan Chase & Co., but also utilities and social media sites likeFacebook Inc., which has also indefinitely suspended Trump from using the site.

Corporate PACs are generally limited to giving $10,000 per cycle to a candidate. In the 2020 elections, they donated $360 million, with 57% of that amount going to Republicans.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the main fundraising organ for GOP senate candidates, declined to comment. The National Republican Congressional Committee, which does the same for House candidates, did not immediately respond.

The companies suspending or reviewing their political giving aren’t just protecting their brands. “This is really very serious risk management,” says Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, a nonpartisan group that has pushed for greater transparency in corporate political giving.

Freed says the companies’ contributions associate them with the actions of the politicians they underwrite, something that the deadly riot of Jan. 6 have brought into clearer focus. Companies should also examine their giving to political nonprofit groups and state level organizations as well, and the review should be extensive, he said.

“They have to take a look at how their spending over the last decade has contributed to this crisis,” Freed said.

But the impact of the backlash on campaign contributions may not be felt for months. The next federal elections aren’t until November 2022, and companies don’t have direct control over contributions by their executives, lobbyists and major shareholders.

And critics note that the new corporate policies would do little to stem the flow of money into the less-regulated political nonprofits that have pumped more than $1 billion into independently produced campaign ads over the last decade without disclosing their donors.

— With assistance by Kevin Miller

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