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Campaign finance system is rocked as major companies pause or halt political contributions

Dow, with 36,000 workers worldwide, will end political donations to 147 Republican representatives and senators for an entire election cycle — two years for House members and six years for senators.
Dow, with 36,000 workers worldwide, will end political donations to 147 Republican representatives and senators for an entire election cycle — two years for House members and six years for senators.JEFF KOWALSKY/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The funding of US political campaigns is being rocked as some of the nation’s largest companies, including Google and JP Morgan, announced plans to halt all political contributions after last week’s insurrection at the Capitol. Some companies are targeting the 147 GOP politicians who voted against certifying the presidential vote totals — a sign of corporate America’s growing uneasiness with the election doubts and violent attacks inspired by President Trump.

The decisions could have lasting impact. Dow, a chemical company with 36,000 workers worldwide, said its decision to cut off political donations to the 147 Republican US representatives and senators would last for an entire election cycle — two years for House members and six years for senators.

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The political action committees of the tech giants Facebook, Google, and Microsoft donated more than $4.2 million over the last two years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets.

Charles Schwab, after spending nearly $550,000 on PAC contributions in the last two years, said it was halting contribution to all politicians for the rest of this year.

Major companies that collectively pour millions of dollars each year into campaigns through employee-funded political action committees are registering their worry and anger about last week’s chaos with a reexamination of their role in powering America’s fractious politics.

Facebook, Google, and Microsoft said they will halt all political donations while they review their giving. Banking giants such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan said they were doing the same. BlackRock made a similar announcement to its employees, noting its decision was spurred by ’'the horrific events in the nation’s capital.’'

But Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain, and many other companies announced a much more targeted response: a halt to the campaign cash flowing to the Republicans who voted against certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Marriott said its decision suspending donations to the 147 Republican members of Congress was motivated by ’'the destructive events at the Capitol to undermine a legitimate and fair election.’'

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The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, a provider of health insurance to more than 100 million people, pledged to end contributions ’'to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy.’'

American Express struck a similar note in a memo to all employees Monday, halting contributions to the Congress members who voted ’'to subvert the presidential election results and disrupt the peaceful transition of power.’'

Hallmark Cards went further. The Kansas City-based greeting card maker said its political action committee was asking that Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, and Senator Roger Marshall, Republican of Kansas, return its donations following the Capitol attack. The committee gave $7,000 to Hawley’s campaign and $5,000 to Marshall’s over two years.

Coca-Cola is suspending political donations, aside from a previously planned contribution to the inauguration, as a result of the “unlawful and violent events in our nation’s capital last week.”

The beverage giant said in an emailed statement that the situation will factor into future contribution decisions, without specifying exactly how. Coke will still follow through with its plan to give a $50,000 cash donation and $60,000 in commemorative bottles to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Mastercard said that it will stop donating to lawmakers who opposed certification. 3M, the maker of Post-it notes, medical masks, and chemical additives, has paused all state and federal political contributions through March and plans to reassess its spending policy in April.

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American Express said Monday that its PAC wouldn’t support congressional members who tried “to subvert the presidential election results and disrupt the peaceful transition of power.”

The American Investment Council, the trade group for the private equity industry, is halting all donations to candidates from its political action committee.

UPS has suspended all contributions for now, a spokesperson said, and Smithfield Foods, the top global pork producer, paused all US federal campaign contributions “until more facts are known” about last week’s events.

Ford suspended contributions from its employee PAC “for now” because “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.”

’'These corporations are doing something very new, and something that could potentially alienate an important base for them,’' said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a money-in-politics group. ’'I’ve never heard of this happening before.’'

Commerce Bank, a holding company with branches in five mostly Midwestern states, said its PAC has ’'suspended all support for officials who have impeded the peaceful transfer of power.” Some of the corporate decisions were first reported by the newsletter Popular Information.

The pace of corporate announcements has picked up in the days since Wednesday’s violence at the Capitol and the vote to certify the presidential election results. What started out as companies and trade groups rushing to register their outrage — with statements ranging from condemnations to direct calls for Trump’s removal from office — has morphed into going after one of the main fuels of political campaigns: money.

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Some political operatives doubted that companies would be able to refrain from PAC donations for long.

’'The vast majority of these guys will be back at the table,” said a former White House official who departed last year, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. ’'When they see policies that threaten their business, they’ll have to be.’'

But others were encouraged by the corporate reactions.

’'I’d caution reading too much into it right now, but it will continue to snowball as the companies doing this continue to be applauded for it,’' said Rory Cooper, managing director at Purple Strategies, a corporate reputation consulting firm.

’'It’s a fantastically, extraordinarily big deal,’' said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a good-government group. She said some politicians supported a vote against election certification as part of a calculation to maintain party support and receive political contributions. ’'This is adding a counternarrative to that calculation.’'

Airbnb said in a statement it was withholding PAC support — money — from the GOP politicians ’'who voted against the certification of the presidential election results.’'

And more pressure is coming. The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group, in the coming days will launch a multimillion-dollar ad campaign targeting companies that bankroll Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the election, pushing them to cease making donations to these and other Republicans.

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Material from Bloomberg News was used in this report.