After 147 Republican lawmakers voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, major corporations like Amazon and Google pledged to stop donating to election objectors or stop political giving altogether. New reporting from Politico finds that many of these companies technically kept their promises – because they dispatched their lobbyists to make donations for them instead.
Lobbyists for Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Meta (formerly known as Facebook), Allstate, Toyota, Nike, Dow Chemical Company, and more publicly announced that they would stop donating to election objectors or that they would review their donation policies after some Republican lawmakers voted not to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, following months of former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him.
But since corporations benefit greatly from giving to politicians who in turn back policies like keeping corporate taxes low, they used their lobbyists to get around these pledges; individual lobbyists can make personal donations on behalf of companies without being officially affiliated with the companies in campaign filings.
Overall, staff from at least 13 companies with donation pledges gave to election objectors in 2021, Politico found, totalling over $28,000.
Some of the Republicans who received those donations are set to take on leadership positions if their party takes back the House in the midterm elections this year, meaning that the donations could end up playing a role in shaping legislation that will be considered in Congress over the next few years.
According to Politico’s analysis, lobbyists for Microsoft gave the most among major tech companies; corporate vice president of U.S. government affairs Fred Humphries gave $2,500 to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and $1,000 to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Microsoft Congressional Affairs director Allison Halataei, meanwhile, gave $1,000 to Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah).
In spite of those donations – or perhaps because they thought the donations would ultimately fly under the radar – Microsoft reiterated its pledge to stop all political donations in 2022.
Overall, lobbyists for tech companies gave over $16,000 in donations to 11 different Republicans, Politico found, even as they stuck by their pledges in the public eye.
“It clearly is a workaround,” government ethics expert for Public Citizen Craig Holman told Politico. “If a company is serious about not giving a campaign contribution to insurrectionists, then they can’t allow people who are in senior executive positions who represent the company to make those same contributions. And that would include the CEO as well as the lobbyists of the company.”
While it appears that some companies are trying to conceal donations to election objectors, many others broke their pledges outright last year. Companies including General Motors, Lockheed Martin, UPS, Duke Energy, and more broke their pledges and gave thousands to objectors. Some of these broken pledges are especially egregious – Toyota, for instance, gave $55,000 in the first seven months of 2021 alone.
Popular Information has reported that company pledges against political donations have been largely successful – corporate PAC donations to election objectors are down about 60 percent in comparison to the last election cycle.
However, many companies may have simply shifted their donations onto lobbyists, meaning that it’s difficult to know exactly how these pledges have changed the donation landscape – and it’s possible that they’ve even pushed an already opaque election finance system even further into the dark.
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