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50 Dollar Bill

Bankrolling the Disenfranchisers

Since 2016, Corporate and Trade Association PACs Have Given $170 Million to Lawmakers Who Voted to Challenge the Presidential Election

By Mike Tanglis and Taylor Lincoln

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Many in corporate America have signaled their disgust over the insurrection that occurred at the U.S. Capitol last week, as well as with President Trump and the congressional ringleaders who incited the rioters.

But many of these same corporate scolds have acted as reliable funders of the members of Congress who sought last week to void the results of the 2020 presidential election. By Public Citizen’s count, political action committees have contributed a staggering $170 million since the 2016 election cycle to the 147 members of Congress who voted last week to challenge the electoral college slates of at least one state.[1]

Our analysis reveals that 19 of these PACs have contributed at least $1 million each to the disenfranchisers over the past three election cycles. Meanwhile, 46 of these PACs have supported at least 50 percent of the members of Congress who voted to throw out at least part of the 2020 election results.

The top contributors are all trade associations: the National Association of Realtors, the American Bankers Association, the National Automobile Dealers Association and the National Beer Wholesalers Association. The American Bankers Association, which has contributed more than $2 million, in sum, to 120 of the 147 disenfranchisers, declared that the insurrection marked “a dark day for our democracy.”[2]

Public Citizen is not alone in scrutinizing these PAC contributions. The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed the top PAC contributors to the 147 during the 2020 cycle.[3] Popular Information tallied PAC contributions from the country’s largest corporations to Republican senators who voted to throw out the election.[4]

In response to the pro-Trump insurrection, several corporations and trade associations have announced that they would alter their political giving policies.

For example, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan all announced they would pause all of their political giving. Marriott, BlueCross BlueShield and Commerce Bank told Popular Information they were suspending contributions to all 147 disenfranchisers.[5]

The list of corporations modifying their political contribution policies is growing, seemingly, by the hour. While these companies deserve some credit for taking action in the wake of the insurrection – and the corporations that have failed to act merit condemnation – they deserve criticism for waiting so long. Moreover, temporary actions, if that’s all these turn out to be, constitute nothing more than a PR sham. Deferring contributions for a few months at the beginning of an election cycle is no penalty whatsoever.

Donald Trump has trampled on the norms that bind our society and political system since long before he announced his candidacy for president and continued to do so throughout his presidency. Business leaders stood silently while Trump hacked away at the foundation of our country because they welcomed his gifts to them.

Lloyd Blankfein, a former chief executive of Goldman Sachs, explained: “For Wall Street, it was lower taxes, less regulation. He was delivering what ‘we’ wanted. We put a clothespin on our nose,” Blankfein told The New York Times this week. “We weren’t ignorant of the kind of risks we were taking. We repressed them.”[6]

Many of the disenfranchisers have been enabling Trump’s assault on democratic norms and the rule of law throughout his presidency. The corporate benefactors listed in this analysis have likewise helped these lawmakers offer aid and comfort to Trump.

The campaign finance policy changes that some corporations have offered in response to last week’s insurrection, while welcomed, are insufficient. Here’s a not-so-radical suggestion to corporate leaders who truly want to demonstrate their commitment to democracy: Shutter your campaign finance operations for good and return our democracy to the voters. Such a change should entail not just terminating political action committees but, also, forswearing any contributions to unregulated super PACs and to outside groups that spend money to influence elections but keep their donors’ names secret.

Meanwhile, the incoming Biden administration should act quickly to enact an anti-“pay-to-play” executive order that requires federal contractors to disclose the expenditures they make to influence elections. Also, the Securities and Exchange Commission should restart its work to implement a rule requiring publicly traded companies to make comprehensive disclosure of their political activities. It’s time to return to the roots of democracy: people.

Table I: Contributions by Political Action Committees to Members of Congress Who Voted to Challenge the Electoral College Vote
(Includes contributions from 2016 to 2020 election cycles)

RankContributor PACTotal Contributions
1National Association of Realtors$2,061,307
2American Bankers Association$2,043,388
3National Automobile Dealers Association$1,878,500
4National Beer Wholesalers Association$1,703,000
5AT&T Inc.$1,617,000
6National Association of Home Builders$1,510,500
7Koch Industries Inc$1,495,500
8Lockheed Martin Corp.$1,410,500
9Raytheon Company / United Technologies$1,401,500
10Comcast Corporation & NBCUniversal$1,391,500
11American Crystal Sugar Company$1,302,500
12Credit Union National Association$1,290,000
13Boeing Company$1,250,000
14Honeywell International$1,243,654
15National Rural Electric Cooperative Association$1,208,050
16United Parcel Service Inc.$1,191,822
17Northrop Grumman Corp.$1,134,000
18Home Depot Inc.$1,114,500
20American Society of Anesthesiologists$984,200
21Associated Builders & Contractors$951,500
22Ernst & Young$937,193
23National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors$935,700
24Exxon Mobil Corp,$916,500
25American Dental Association$832,800
26American Council of Engineering Companies$828,100
27Marathon Petroleum Corp.$805,000
28Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers$788,500
29National Cattlemen's Beef Association$786,000
30General Dynamics Corp.$780,000
31American Optometric Association$778,438
32Farm Credit Council$768,447
33New York Life Insurance Company$751,600
34American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons$729,928
35Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Inc.$729,000
36General Electric Company$715,000
37American Institute of Certified Public Accountants$677,778
38BNSF Railway Company$641,454
39National Cotton Council of America$630,000
42Altria Group Inc.$618,038
43Verizon Communications Inc.$615,804
44Investment Company Institute$605,500
45National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association$605,000
46Union Pacific Corp.$603,439
47National Apartment Association$602,150
48General Motors Company$599,500
49UBS Americas Inc.$575,500
50Cox Enterprises$570,000
52United Services Automobile Association$555,500
54Automotive Free International Trade$551,500
55Associated General Contractors of America$541,500
56American Hospital Association$532,000
57American Medical Association$531,800
59American College of Emergency Physicians$519,250
60National Multifamily Housing Council$515,500
61Valero Energy Corp.$514,000
62Federal Express$511,500
63Independent Community Bankers$505,000
64National Association of Convenience Stores$491,000
65National Cable and Telecommunications Association$482,500
66National Federation of Independent Business$476,546
67Charter Communications Inc.$475,026
68Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company$474,500
69CSX Corp.$474,500
70Safari Club International$469,250
71UnitedHealth Group Inc.$466,500
72American College of Radiology$465,500
73Delta Air Lines$464,000
75Duke Energy Corp.$448,500
76International Paper$444,500
77Walmart Inc.$439,500
78Toyota Motor North America Inc.$437,635
79Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America$421,073
80American Academy of Ophthalmology Inc$420,000
82BAE Systems USA$412,000
83Harris Corporation$411,500
84Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association$410,000
85American Physical Therapy Association$410,000
86Pfizer Inc.$400,500
87National Electrical Contractors Association$395,000
88Regions Financial Corp.$393,450
89Mortgage Bankers Association$389,500
90John Deere$387,500
91Enterprise Holdings. Inc.$387,250
92Lowe's Companies, Inc. Political Action Committee$385,500
93Morgan Stanley$384,000
94Goldman Sachs Group Inc.$383,000
95National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies$380,500
96National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts$379,500
97National Restaurant Association$379,500
98Norfolk Southern Corp.$376,500
99American Hotel and Lodging$374,500
100General Atomics$365,200

Table II: Political Action Committees That Have Supported More Than 50 Percent of the Members of Congress Who Voted to Challenge to Electoral College Results of the 2020 Presidential Election
(Includes support from 2016 to 2020 election cycles)

RankPolitical Action CommitteeNumber of Disenfranchisers SupportedPercentage of Disenfranchisers Supported
1National Association of Home Builders12383.70%
2National Association of Realtors12182.30%
3American Bankers Association12081.60%
4National Automobile Dealers Association12081.60%
5AT&T Inc.11779.60%
6Associated Builders & Contractors11779.60%
7Credit Union National Association11376.90%
8National Beer Wholesalers Association10974.10%
9Comcast Corporation & NBCUniversal10974.10%
10Lockheed Martin Corp.10672.10%
11National Rural Electric Cooperative Association10672.10%
12United Parcel Service Inc.10571.40%
13Koch Industries Inc10470.70%
14National Federation of Independent Business10168.70%
15Associated General Contractors of America10068.00%
16American Dental Association9967.30%
17Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers9363.30%
18Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Inc.9363.30%
19Home Depot Inc.9262.60%
20Exxon Mobil Corp,9262.60%
21American Optometric Association8859.90%
22Verizon Communications Inc.8759.20%
23Boeing Company8557.80%
24Honeywell International8557.80%
25General Dynamics Corp.8557.80%
26Farm Credit Council8557.80%
27National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors8457.10%
28American Council of Engineering Companies8457.10%
29American Crystal Sugar Company8356.50%
30National Cotton Council of America8356.50%
31Walmart Inc.8356.50%
32Safari Club International8255.80%
33Reynolds American Inc. Political Action Committee8255.80%
34American Hospital Association8155.10%
35Northrop Grumman Corp.8054.40%
36Independent Community Bankers7953.70%
37National Cattlemen's Beef Association7853.10%
38American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons7853.10%
41Raytheon Company / United Technologies7752.40%
42Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association7651.70%
44American Medical Association7551.00%
45Altria Group Inc.7450.30%
46National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association7450.30%

[1] These totals include contributions from corporate PACs and trade associations to the congressional campaign committees of members of Congress. The data tabulated here do not include contributions from advocacy groups, nor contributions to or from leadership PACs, which are operated by politicians.

[2] Anna Hrushka, Bank Leaders, Trade Groups Condemn Insurrection at US Capitol, Banking Dive (Jan. 7, 2021), http://bit.ly/3bw6C5x.

[3] Karl Evers-Hillstrom, Exploring the Top Donors to GOP Electoral College Objectors, Center for Responsive Politics (Jan. 8, 2021), http://bit.ly/2LLlWjS.

[4] Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria, Major Corporations Say They Will Stop Donating to Members of Congress Who Tried to Overturn the Election, Popular Information (Jan. 10, 2021), http://bit.ly/3oIcWLg.

[5] Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria, Major Corporations Say They Will Stop Donating to Members of Congress Who Tried to Overturn the Election, Popular Information (Jan. 10, 2021), http://bit.ly/3oIcWLg.

[6] Andrew Ross Sorkin and Ephrat Livni, When Business and Politics Mix, ‘Character Really Counts’, The New York Times (Jan. 9, 2021), http://nyti.ms/2Lkwl6y.