These Mega-Businesses Are Already Back to Bankrolling Insurrectionists
They said they wouldn’t be giving to Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election. They’re already donating again.
After the Jan. 6 insurrection, more than 120 corporations swiftly vowed to suspend campaign donations to Republicans who objected to certifying the 2020 election.
“In the wake of last week’s violent and unlawful attack on the U.S. Capitol, we feel it is important to reinforce that Pfizer PAC supports individuals who are guided by the principles that mirror Pfizer’s core values,” an internal email read in mid-January.
“We have made the decision that for the next six months, Pfizer PAC will not contribute to any of the 147 Members of Congress who voted against certifying the Electoral College results after the violence that we all witnessed,” the email also said. “After six months, we will review our decision and report back to you.”
But it took less than two months for Pfizer to break that pledge. Their PAC gave $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, led by one of eight GOP Senators who voted to decertify election results—Rick Scott of Florida—on Feb. 23.
In total, The Daily Beast identified four companies that appear to have gone back on their suspension of donations to GOP election objectors: AT&T, Cigna Health, Ford Motors, and Pfizer.
In the weeks following the Jan. 6th riot, more than 120 companies said—to varying degrees—they would be reevaluating their political spending, according to data The Daily Beast aggregated from CNN and the Center for Responsive Politics. Some said they’d be halting all political donations. Some said they’d pause giving to any of the 147 who voted to overturn the election results for a certain time period. But all of these companies wanted to rebuke these Republicans, in some small way, for their role in stoking the Capitol insurrection and then still proceeding to vote for decertifying election results in the hours after the attack.
The Daily Beast reviewed Federal Election Commission filings for all companies who made a pledge. And while none of the five companies who seem to have reversed themselves have given directly to official candidate committees, three of the companies—AT&T, Ford, and Pfizer—gave to leadership PACs belonging to members who challenged votes. Additionally, Cigna and Pfizer gave to the NRSC, which, again, is controlled by Scott, who voted to overturn the election.
The NRSC also has discretion to spend money on any Senate candidate they want, meaning the integrity of their pledge only exists in as much as they want to claim their specific dollars didn’t go toward helping one of the GOP Senators who voted to decertify the Electoral College.
Federal law bars companies from giving directly to candidates, so the vast majority of corporate donations go through employee-funded Political Action Committees.
On Jan. 12, Cigna’s chief human resources office, John Murabito, informed employees that the healthcare company would “discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered the peaceful transition of power.”
“Some issues are so foundational to our core fiber that they transcend all other matters of public policy,” Murabito said in a memo, obtained by CNBC. “There is never any justification for violence or destruction of the kind we saw at the U.S. Capitol—the building that [is] such a powerful symbol of the very democracy that makes our nation strong.”
But less than a month later, on Feb. 4, Cigna donated $15,000 to the NRSC. Later that month, the company gave $15,000 to the House counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee. (Those donations were first reported by Judd Legum, who runs the website Popular Information.)
In response to The Daily Beast’s inquiry, a Cigna representative said they had not “wavered from our commitment to disqualify elected officials that incited violence” from CignaPAC contributions following the January 6 attack.
“Our standard eliminates direct contributions to any federal or state elected official who encouraged or supported violence or otherwise hindered a peaceful transition of power on that day, or who do so in the future,” a spokesperson said. “CignaPAC, which is employee-funded, will continue to support organizations, candidates, and elected officials who will help champion more affordable, predictable, and simple health care – including the national campaign committees of both parties.”
Ford Motors issued a press statement five days after the attack saying it would pause all donations indefinitely. “Events over the past year have underscored the need for a broader, ongoing discussion about other relevant considerations when it comes to our employee PAC,” Ford said. But 19 days later, the PAC gave $5,000 to the leadership PAC for Rep. Debbie Dingle (D-MI), and on Feb. 2, it donated $1,000 to the leadership PAC belonging to objector Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), one of the House Republicans who voted to overturn the election.
Ford didn’t respond to a request for comment.
On Feb. 15, telecom company AT&T donated $5,000 to the House Conservatives Fund, the leadership PAC belonging to election objector Mike Johnson (R-LA). A member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, Johnson played a key role in the effort to overturn the election, urging House Republicans to sign onto a letter in support of a Texas amicus brief to the Supreme Court looking to sue other states for certifying their own elections.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, an AT&T spokesperson said their employees PACs continue to follow the policy adopted after the Jan. 6th attack to suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to overturn election results. The statement added that the company had “been assured that none of the employee PAC’s contributions will go toward the re-election of any of those members of Congress. Any future contributions to multi-candidate PACs will require such consistency with the policy suspending individual contributions.”
But leadership PACs, notorious for being used as personal slush funds, distribute donations to other candidates from a single pool of money. In 2020, Johnson’s PAC bankrolled 105 of the 138 other House Republicans who stood with him. Their argument relies on looking at Johnson’s donations to Republicans who didn’t vote to overturn the election, and in effect saying, ‘That was our money,’ while disregarding donations to the Republicans who did vote to decertify, and saying, ‘No, that wasn’t us.’
It’s an argument disregarding the fungibility of money.
Despite multiple requests from The Daily Beast, AT&T also would not offer evidence that Johnson agreed to withhold donations from the company to Republicans who objected—including himself—nor did the spokesperson say whether Johnson explained how such segregation was possible.
Robert Maguire, who investigates political contributions for the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called the veiled threats and subsequent donations an “egregious and infuriating” example of “how broken our campaign finance system is.”
“It doesn’t matter if they’re giving to committees who haven’t held their members accountable and will continue to give them financial support,” Maguire said. “They’re still circumventing their commitments.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Wells Fargo did not break its giving pledge. Due to a clerical error at the NRSC, a Wells Fargo subsidiary was reported as making a donation to the group. The NRSC acknowledged to The Daily Beast that donations made in Wells Fargo's name were an error, and the story has been updated throughout.