It’s not business as usual in corporate America, and we should be thankful for that.
More companies have decided to withhold political donations to Republican lawmakers who objected to the Electoral College results, while others are pausing contributions to both parties to consider how they will give in the future.
The New England companies rethinking donations include Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boston Scientific, CVS Health, General Electric, Liberty Mutual, Raytheon Technologies, and State Street. They join companies such as American Express, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Comcast, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Marriott, according to multiple reports.
At least one company, Hallmark Cards, is going one step further and asking for its money back. The Kansas City greeting card company confirmed it has put in a request to Senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall that they return contributions that came from its political action committee. Missouri Republican Hawley, in particular, has been a leader of the opposition in Congress to Joe Biden’s election. Just before a mob stormed the Capitol last Wednesday, he egged them on with a fist pump.
Companies can issue carefully worded statements denouncing last week’s riot, but talk is cheap. Taking away the cash that has fueled a threat to our democracy makes a real statement, one that can make politicians do some deep thinking.
“They doing anything at all is a deviation from the norm and one that will be influential in terms of sending a message,” said Sarah Bryner, director of research and strategy at the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations through OpenSecrets.org.
The moral outrage is being forced upon corporate America. Every year, companies raise millions of dollars from donations by their employees to influence politics through political action committees. It’s capitalism at work, and these companies give generously to both sides of the aisle. In return, they expect to help shape policies favorable to their industries.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association decided over the weekend that its political action committee will no longer donate to the 147 Republicans in Congress who voted against certifying results that declared Biden the next president. In the 2019-2020 election cycle, the health care association — which includes Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts — gave to three of the eight Republican senators who objected to the election results, including Hawley, Marshall, and Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville, according to filings compiled by OpenSecrets.org.
“There is a place for legitimate political debate. This was an effort to undermine our democracy,” said Andrew Dreyfus, chief executive of Blue Cross in Massachusetts. “This felt like a moment to express our values more explicitly.”
On Monday, the Boston financial services giant State Street also decided it had enough of polarizing politics and said it would not support lawmakers or candidates “who demonstrate views or engage in activities that are intended to undermine legitimate election outcomes. As a result, our Political Action Committee (PAC) will not contribute to lawmakers who supported last week’s efforts to undermine our democracy.”
State Street said it will also set up a process to evaluate future contributions to ensure that the company doesn’t support any candidate who is “subverting the core democratic principles of our Constitution, especially election outcomes.”
“While we are respectful of and encourage diverse political beliefs, any attempt to overturn the results of a legitimate election subvert the very system in which we live and conduct business and must be universally condemned,” State Street said in a statement. “Our democratic system is an idea and an ideal that relies on the rule of law and the peaceful transition of power to sustain itself.”
General Electric, the Boston conglomerate, is upping the ante by not only suspending PAC donations to those who opposed the Electoral College results, but will refrain from giving money to those politicians while the 117th Congress is in session, a two-year period. The move could make it harder for Republican incumbents to fend off a challenge, especially if more companies follow suit. In the 2019-20 election cycle, GE’s PAC gave more than $150,000 to the Republican lawmakers who objected to the election outcome, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets.org.
“This is not a decision we made lightly, but is one we believe is important to ensure that our future contributions continue to reflect our company’s values and commitment to democracy,” GE said in a statement.
Meanwhile, CVS Health, Boston Scientific, Liberty Mutual, and Raytheon are reevaluating their approach to donating, and some are even pausing all contributions from their PACs.
In the 2019-2020 election cycle, CVS Health, the Rhode Island health care behemoth, gave about $80,000 to Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying the Electoral College results, including Hawley and Representatives Michael Burgess, Devin Nunes, and Elise Stefanik, according to OpenSecrets.org.
During the same period, Boston Scientific’s PAC gave more than $50,000 to the Republican lawmakers who challenged the presidential election results, including Senators Marshall, Rick Scott, and Cynthia Lummis.
Liberty Mutual said it has suspended PAC contributions for the first quarter. In the last election cycle, the Boston insurance company doled out more than $100,000 to Republicans who voted against certification, including Senators Marshall and John Kennedy, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Raytheon, which runs one of the country’s biggest corporate PACs, also is putting a hold on political giving. The Waltham defense contractor and aerospace company gave more than $400,000 to Republican lawmakers who objected to the election outcome, including close to $10,000 to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.
Corporate America has stayed silent too long when it comes to Donald Trump and his political enablers. Corporate titans may have stood up to sexism and racism in their own workplaces, but they seemed to look the other way when women accused Trump of assault or when migrant children were caged.
For the business community, it was easier to lay low. The Trump administration delivered tax cuts and deregulation.
Now that our democracy may be irrevocably damaged, corporate America is ready to take a stand. When we look back, many will ask: What took so long? And is withholding money enough?
Clarification: An earlier version did not make clear that General Electric is suspending political donations to only those who opposed the Electoral College results.
Shirley Leung is a Business columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.