After the Capitol Attack, Companies Pledged to Rethink Political Giving. Did They?

After a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, many businesses and trade groups condemned the attack and pledged to review and shift their approach to political giving, including by halting donations to candidates who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election.

Three years later, the day still looms large in politics. President Biden has framed the 2024 presidential election as a battle for American democracy, suggesting in a speech on Friday that it will test whether democracy is still a “sacred cause.” The same day, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from former Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, of a Colorado court decision removing him from the state’s Republican primary ballot because of his actions surrounding the riot.

But the business community has not exerted the huge financial pressure on election-denying candidates and groups that the initial flood of condemnations and pledges in 2021 may have suggested, according to new data.

Corporate political action committees still give millions to election objectors. Hundreds of business and trade association PACs contributed over $108 million to campaigns and committees linked to members of Congress who insisted that the election had been stolen from Trump, according an analysis of Federal Election Commission data from Jan. 6, 2021, through September by Open Secrets, a campaign finance research nonprofit. “Companies pledged to pull back, but we have not seen that play out,” Open Secrets’ investigations manager, Anna Massoglia, told DealBook.

The political watchdog Accountable.US found that overall donations from Fortune 500 companies and about 700 trade associations to election objectors in Congress decreased only about 10 percent — or around $3.7 million — in the 2022 election cycle compared with 2020. And more than 250 companies and industry groups increased donations to those lawmakers after they tried to undermine the election.

The corporate PAC numbers show what the companies are openly disclosing — so although they do not reveal the whole donation picture, they are meaningful, Massoglia said. “Companies also route funds through trade associations, super PACs and even dark money groups that can ultimately be used to benefit election deniers,” she said. Many companies also donate to state-level efforts.

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