Politics

Pressure Mounts for Corporations to Break with Steve King

Jewish leaders in Iowa call for more companies to break ties with embattled conservative congressman

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is losing corporate donors for his extreme right-wing rhetoric. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Not only is Rep. Steve King’s party pulling back its support, but he’s losing corporate donors for his incendiary rhetoric too. 

Three companies that had previously backed King — Land O’ Lakes, Purina, and Intel —publicly committed to ceasing donations to the Republican congressman Tuesday, facing pressure from anti-racism activists on social media and Jewish congregations at home, the Des Moines Register reported

King has for years been censured by the Southern Poverty Law Center for  comments the watchdog group calls “explicitly white nationalist.”

But the scrutiny has become more severe since Saturday, when a gunman motivated by an ideology of white supremacy shot 11 people at a synagogue in the largest hate crime perpetrated against Jews in U.S. history. 

Jewish leaders in Iowa called on Berkshire Hathaway, AT&T and the American Bankers Association to break with the congressman in a letter to the editor published in the Des Moines Register on Monday.

“We are writing from the depths of our grief, in horror at the news of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh,” the wrote. “We feel we must speak out because our congressional representative, Steve King, is an enthusiastic crusader for the same types of abhorrent beliefs held by the Pittsburgh shooter.”

Blue chip companies like AT&T and longstanding trade groups like the American Bankers Association are among the top donors to King’s reelection campaign this year, according to OpenSecrets.

Earlier this month, U.S. media reported for the first time on an August interview King granted in Austria, in which King echoed the far-right conspiracy theory that immigration and diversity will lead to a collapse of “Western civilization.” Advocacy groups dedicated to rooting out hate speech say “Western civilization” used in that context is a euphemism for whites.

In the wake of that report, the news site Sludge reached out to the political action committees of 23 major companies, trade associations and special interest groups contributing $2,000 or more to King. Just one company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, issued a response. None committed to ceasing donations at that time.

On Tuesday, National Republican Congressional Committee Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers rebuked King on Twitter, a signal that Republicans will not sink any fundraising into the final days of his reelection. 

King attributed the criticism to “fake news” in a statement. He also mocked his critics in a tweet about pheasant hunting. 

King’s Democratic opponent J.D. Scholten announced early Wednesday that he had raised $350,000 from more than 7,500 donors in one day amid the heightened scrutiny of King.

He cited a Democratic poll from Change Research showing the Democratic challenger with a 45 percent to 44 percent lead. But King countered with his own poll showing he holds onto a 52 percent to 34 percent advantage, according to the Sioux City Journal.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

House Ratings Change in Favor of Democrats

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