But over the next two years, amid a contentious midterm battle, less than half of those companies kept those promises for a full election cycle, the analysis of campaign donations found.
The contributions made by corporate political action committees to the 147 members of Congress who sought to challenge the election results represent only a small fraction of the more than $350 million that those members raised over the past two years.
But the totals still add up to significant support. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who raised more than $27 million during the 2022 election cycle and objected to the election results along with the majority of his party in the House, brought in $285,000 from the PACs of companies that had once pushed back against election denialism. He remains locked in a leadership battle, with the House yet to elect a speaker.
The fundraising totals illustrate the limits of the changes that the events of Jan. 6 sparked in Washington. The rhetoric that fed the riots has continued to be embraced by scores of Republican politicians, and they in turn have been kept in the fold by some of the big outside interests who condemned their position at the time. The turnaround also raises questions about what the corporations that paused contributions and later turned them back on were hoping to accomplish with their stand — besides a fleeting PR win.
Many of the largest companies either did not respond to a request for comment or declined to provide one. Those that did often stressed the bipartisan nature of their corporate PAC giving.
Of the 147 members who voted against certifying all 50 states in the aftermath of the riots two years ago, 130 remain in Congress. Only two lost in general election races this past November.
“So many corporations sought recognition for halting political spending after January 6, then quietly reopened the money spigot to election deniers when they thought no one was paying attention,” said Jeremy Funk, the media relations director for the liberal-leaning watchdog group Accountable.US. “Companies that claimed to be allies for democracy then rewarded millions to lawmakers that tried to finish what the insurrectionists started have shown they were never serious.”
POLITICO identified more than 100 companies and business groups that pledged to suspend or review donations or take the events of Jan. 6 into account when making future political contributions, based on lists compiled by Accountable.US and OpenSecrets, a research organization and associated newsroom that focuses on money in politics. Campaign finance records show that more than 70 of those companies’ affiliated political committees resumed donations to at least one member who voted against election certification.
Those that had not resumed donations were generally companies that made fewer political donations to begin with.
Accountable.US conducted a similar analysis of Fortune 100 companies, which constitute the upper echelon of American businesses. The organization found that out of the 50 companies that pledged to pause or reconsider political donations after the Jan. 6 attack — either specifically to those who voted against certification, or political contributions entirely — 34 went on to give at least $5.6 million to members who voted against certification over the last two years.
Cigna, the health insurance company, told employees days after the Jan. 6 attack that it would “discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered the peaceful transition of power,” according to an internal email obtained at the time by CNBC. It was among the first of the companies making such a promise to resume contributions, POLITICO’s analysis found, giving $11,500 in March 2021 to five Republican members who had voted against certifying Joe Biden’s election. Through November 2022, the company gave more than $200,000 to election certification objectors.
In total, fifteen of those Fortune 100 companies identified by Accountable.US gave at least $100,000 to those objectors through their corporate PACs: AT&T, Boeing, Cigna, Comcast, General Motors, Home Depot, Lockheed Martin, Marathon Petroleum, Pfizer, Raytheon, UPS, UnitedHealth, Valaro, Verizon and Walmart.
AT&T, Cigna, Comcast, Marathon Petroleum, Raytheon, UPS, UnitedHealth, Valero and Verizon did not respond to a request for comment. Boeing declined to comment. Those who did comment largely declined to mention Jan. 6 or their previous statements on the issue.
Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo said the company had honored its commitment to pause political giving to members who voted against certification for six months. Since then, she said, “Pfizer’s decision to contribute to elected officials is made based on their support of public policies that aim to protect innovation incentives and expand patients’ access to medicines and vaccines.”
Home Depot spokesperson Evelyn Fornes noted the company’s PAC is “bipartisan” and “supports candidates and organizations on both sides of the aisle who champion pro-business, pro-retail positions. Lockheed spokesperson Cailin Schmeer said the company’s “employee PAC continues to observe long-standing principles of non-partisan political engagement in support of our business interests.”
Randy Hargrove, a spokesperson for Walmart, said the company had resumed giving to select members of Congress who had voted against election certification after reassessing over several months in the aftermath of Jan. 6.
“We’ve long believed we can more effectively advocate on behalf of our associates, customers, communities and shareholders by engaging with policymakers of both parties. While our political contributions do not mean we support every view of an elected official, we will contribute to those who are focused on issues important to our business,” he said.
In a statement, Jeannine Ginivan, a spokesperson for the automaker GM, did not address the contributions directly, but said that the company’s “employee-funded PAC supports the election of U.S. federal and state candidates from both sides of the aisle who foster sound business policies, support American workers and understand the importance of a robust domestic auto industry as we pursue an all-electric vehicle future.”
By the end of 2021, at least 43 political committees affiliated with companies that had initially spoken out after Jan. 6 resumed political giving to members who had voted against election certification. The flow of cash picked up further in 2022 as the midterms approached and Republicans seemed poised to reclaim congressional power, with contributions totaling more than $10.2 million for the election cycle.
Corporate PACs are limited in what they can contribute to federal office seekers: $5,000 per candidate, per election. They also operate in a unique lane of campaign finance law.
The money that ends up in the campaign accounts of a politician comes from a pool of money donated by certain employees and shareholders — a fact that some corporations use to sometimes try to distance themselves from controversies surrounding their PACs. But the company itself is allowed to pick up the bill for operational costs, like paying PAC employees or for certain fundraising expenses.
Even before the events of Jan. 6, a growing number of candidates — largely, but not exclusively, Democrats first elected in the 2018 wave — said they would not accept donations from corporate PACs, decrying the influence of money in politics. That scrutiny comes even as corporate PACs make up a smaller and smaller portion of political donations, and despite the fact that most corporate PACs don’t donate to candidates who aren’t already in Congress.
The 147 members who objected to the 2020 election results also raised more than $100 million in the last two years from donors giving less than $200.