In the immediate aftermath of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, countless promises were made. Politicians including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) swore they would investigate and hold the insurrectionists accountable. Months later they killed a bipartisan independent commission to investigate and threatened members who agreed to join the Select Committee that will do the job.
Dozens of big companies pledged that they would no longer donate money to the 147 lawmakers – all Republicans – who cast votes objecting to Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory. They cited a commitment to democracy and rejection of the false claim that the election was stolen from Trump. But just like politicians’ statements made while tear gas still hung in the halls of the Capitol, those were just empty promises.
An investigation by The Associated Press has found that six months later many of the dozens of companies who pledged allegiance to the republic have resumed funneling cash to lawmakers who sought to undermine it. Walmart, Pfizer, Intel, General Electric, AT&T and others are doing so by writing huge checks – $20,000, $30,000 – to political action committees that in turn spend money on behalf of GOP election certification objectors.
The companies proclaim purity and parse their donations by pointing out that they’re not giving to the individual politicians. Campaign finance experts say that’s a distinction without a difference. “Pledging not to give to a certain person doesn’t mean that much when there are so many other ways that corporate money reaches elected officials,” said Daniel Weiner, a former senior counsel at the Federal Election Commission who now works at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school. “These pledges are largely symbolic.”
Take Walmart. It’s “moral stand” survived all of three months. In April the retailer gave $30,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which supports House GOP lawmakers in elections – two-thirds of whom voted against certifying Biden’s victory. The company also gave another $30,000 the Senate version of the Republican committee, which is headed by Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who was a certification objector.
General Electric sent each of those GOP election groups $15,000 in April. Also in April, Pfizer sent the Senate Republican group $20,000.
One of the few companies that appears to have followed through on its pledge is Hallmark. Federal election records show it has made no contributions either directly to individuals or to PACs that supported those who aided the insurrection. In fact it asked two of those objectors, Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Roger Marshall of Kansas, to actually return direct contributions the company had made to them before the insurrection. Campaign finance records do not yet show that either Republican has returned those refunds.