Pauses in corporate PAC donations also draw ire of Democrats

DCCC Chairman Maloney says lumping both parties in aftermath of Capitol riot is ‘offensive’

DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney has criticized corporate PACS that have halted contributions to both parties in reaction to last week’s pro-Trump riot at the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney has criticized corporate PACS that have halted contributions to both parties in reaction to last week’s pro-Trump riot at the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 14, 2021 at 4:32pm

Corporate executives who have cut off contributions to candidates of both parties in the aftermath of the deadly, pro-Trump Capitol riot don’t seem to be making anyone happy. 

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who chairs the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said such decisions have raised the ire of his party. His fellow Democrats, he said, “are taking it personally” that corporate executives are punishing Democrats too by turning off their political action committees entirely. 

“This is an offensive act to those of us who have been defending our Constitution,” Maloney told CQ Roll Call in an interview this week. He added that lumping members of both parties into the PAC pauses seemed to besmirch Democrats when it was exclusively Republicans who voted against decertifying electoral results.

GOP lawmakers have condemned the violence that gripped the Capitol on Jan. 6 as a mob sought to block congressional certification of the 2020 presidential results. President Donald Trump had urged his supporters to come to Washington for a “wild” rally to protest an election he has repeatedly said was rife with fraud, despite a lack of evidence and repeated losses in the courts. Speaking to supporters before the riot, he derided those, including Vice President Mike Pence, who were unwilling to overturn the election results.

‘Taking it personally’

“So when corporate America seeks to walk around the block and leave us alone in this fight, we’re taking it personally,” Maloney said, adding that he made a distinction between the companies instituting blanket stops to their donations and the ones, such as Dow and Marriott, that said they would no longer contribute to the more than 140 Republicans who voted against certifying the electoral results. 

The crisis has sent corporate executives and their lobbyists scrambling for how to respond to the fallout.  

Banking giant JPMorgan Chase said it planned to pause “all giving” from its corporate PAC for six months, according to an email from company spokeswoman Patricia Wexler. She added that the company intends “to restart our PAC giving, but it will look different moving forward. This temporary pause gives us some time to take a breath, be thoughtful and reevaluate our giving strategies.”

[Democrats launch ads aimed at Republicans who opposed impeachment]

Facebook, Nike, Target, Google and Microsoft are among the other companies that have reportedly said they are putting their PACs on hiatus. 

“Following last week’s awful violence in DC, we are pausing all of our PAC contributions for at least the current quarter, while we review our policies,” Facebook spokesman Daniel Roberts said in an email statement.

Micaela Isler, executive director of the National Association of Business PACs, said such decisions did not aim to “penalize” anyone. 

“It is sound business practice to evaluate political contribution criteria to ensure all lawmakers they are supporting share their values and goals, especially in the aftermath of the horrific events last week,” Isler said. “Our hope is that everyone involved in the political process takes the time now to discuss and consider how we can raise our collective voices in ways that reduce our divisions and result in solutions to the very real challenges we face as a country. A review is a first step.”

Maloney, who represents a district north of New York City, said his outrage at the companies was less about the money itself, but on the principle. 

“This is about fundamental principles of our democracy, and so to be honest, our primary focus is not politics and fundraising,” he said. “It’s preserving our democracy. … When you lump us all together, you do a great disservice to the fundamental issues at stake here.”

Small dollars’ growing influence

Maloney took over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after the November elections. During the 2020 cycle, the campaign arm hauled in more than $330 million, including more than $50 million from other committees, which include corporate PACs as well as labor PACs and the PACs of lawmakers, federal election records show.

Nearly $100 million came from individuals giving less than $200, known as small-dollar donations, an increasingly pivotal source of money for the party. 

All told, PAC donations accounted for 5 percent of all political giving in the 2020 cycle, down from 9 percent in the 2016 cycle, according to a tabulation by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, while small donors accounted for a record 22 percent of total fundraising.

“One of the great developments in our democracy is most of the growth in political giving is happening at the small-dollar donor level,” Maloney said. 

Still, he said, if corporations want to express their rage about the Capitol riot, Democrats “don’t want to be lumped in with a bunch of people inciting a violent attack.” 

Adam Bozzi, a spokesman for End Citizens United, a campaign finance overhaul group that urges candidates to reject donations from all corporate PACs, also blasted the companies that are suspending all their donations, regardless of political affiliation.  

“At best, it’s like a cynical PR stunt. At worst, it’s dangerous for democracy because they’ve essentially created this false equivalency, which is similar to what got us into this mess,” said Bozzi, a former aide to Senate Democrats. 

End Citizens United on Thursday called on corporate donors to cut off funding specifically to the GOP House and Senate campaign arms as well as super PACs that support Republican congressional candidates.

“The purpose of corporations that are suspending giving to Republicans who voted against the election is because they have the good sense not to be associated with that type of political agenda,” Bozzi said. “When you have this other set of corporations that says, ‘We’re not going to give to anybody,’ it sends the message that both sides are at fault, and there’s not both sides to this.”