Just four months ago, after losing the presidential election, the former president of the United States fomented an insurrection that left five people dead. It was a desperate attempt to hold onto power. The entire assault was based on the “Big Lie” that the election was somehow stolen from Donald Trump — an absurd, invented conspiracy theory that was given currency by Republican members of Congress. One-hundred and forty-seven GOP members voted to overturn the election, opting to reject democracy simply because their candidate lost.
As a result of the GOP’s blatant disrespect for the basic democratic rule of law, major corporate donors — seizing on their unfortunately outsize role in American democracy — decided to cut Republicans off. “Violence, lawlessness, and anarchy have no place in our nation,” the CEO of Leidos, a defense and aviation company, said in a statement after the failed insurrection. “In light of these events, Leidos’s Political Action Committee (PAC) has decided to temporarily pause all political donations.” Many other companies made similar moves. The Connecticut-based health care and insurance company Cigna, for example, said it would halt donations to anyone who “hindered a peaceful transfer of power.”
But since these supposedly hard-line stances, many companies have quietly reversed their positions. According to recent fund-raising disclosures, for example, Cigna resumed giving money to Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election results. That change of heart comes despite the fact that, far from changing their ways, congressional Republicans have chosen to double down on their efforts to subvert American democracy. In effect, corporate America seems to have returned to normalizing antidemocratic behavior.
That sends an unfortunate message. So long as Republican members of Congress are not punished for their assaults on voting rights and democracy, they will continue to promote conspiracy theories with abandon and could very well redo their attempt to overturn a legitimate election come 2022 or 2024. And if, or when, they do, every company that has decided to donate to their campaigns will be just as guilty in destroying the fabric of American democracy.
Though some companies have held their line and have yet to resume donating to election objectors, many of them have looked the other way as their money takes backdoor routes into the pockets of the very members they’re supposedly trying to avoid. According to Axios, lobbyists employed by companies that have made these pledges are filling the gap their companies have left behind, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the election results. One of those companies is the Massachusetts-based defense conglomerate Raytheon Technologies; at least 11 lobbyists it employs have donated to antidemocratic lawmakers since the company made its pledge.
“We have paused all political action committee contributions to reflect on the current environment and determine appropriate next steps,” the company said in a statement to the editorial board. But while companies might not have had a say in how lobbyists spend their money, they do have a say in which lobbyists they employ. Simply put, companies that are serious about their pledges shouldn’t hire firms that support election objectors.
The problem with continuing to help these GOP members of Congress fund-raise for their political campaigns is that it emboldens them to continue going down the path to autocracy. Since the insurrection, Trump has only strengthened his grip on his party, and more and more members are going out of their way to show their loyalty to the former president and his election lies. Earlier this week, for example, Republicans voted to oust Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership position in the party, simply because she chose to stand up to Trump by voting to impeach him when he violated his oath of office. She has also been an outspoken critic of Trump and Trumpism since the insurrection, vowing to fight for the GOP to respect the fundamental ideals of American democracy.
But unfortunately, Cheney and her like-minded colleagues, like Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, represent a shrinking minority within their own party. And that’s in large part because the election objectors are being given no political incentive to show any remorse for their actions. So long as they can fund-raise, and so long as companies give them money, they will regrettably — but correctly — know that there simply are no consequences in America for rejecting democracy.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.