- YAHOO FINANCE - MAY 19, 2021 - Ben Werschkul - Contribuição Ernesto Matera -
After 147 Republican members of Congress voted to overturn the presidential election following the Jan. 6 violence from Donald Trump’s supporters, at least 190 companies announced what seemed like a clear cut message. They were cutting off or at least rethinking their political giving strategy towards these Republicans.
But the money quickly began trickling back to the lawmakers, according to a comprehensive report by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The report released Wednesday shows the myriad ways that a dollar can make its way from a company to the 147 lawmakers, even without a direct donation.
“To my knowledge, it’s the first 35,000-foot view of the landscape of corporate and industry funding” of these 147 members, said Robert Maguire, CREW's research director, in an interview Wednesday, noting that pieces have been compiled before but this is the first to include a grand total.
The group found — pulling together the latest available filings — that contributions totaling over $2.6 million dollars flowed in the direction of these 147 members, a pretty significant amount early in a non-election year. The researchers additionally found that over 100 companies and industry groups contributed to that total. The money has gone either directly to lawmakers, or to their leadership PACs, or to party committees that support them.
Where the money came from
Much of the giving came from trade groups, an extra level of separation between the company and the lawmaker. According to CREW’s findings, outfits like the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers or the National Association of Realtors — which are funded by the companies they represent — moved over $100,000 each towards these Republicans.
Among the individual companies, Koch Industries was the largest giver according to CREW’s findings. The company sent over $117,000 in early 2021 and reportedly gave over $700,000 in 2020 to these same Republicans, who went on to object the election results. The Koch network had previously said they would “weigh heavy” the actions of lawmakers after the Jan. 6 riots.
Other companies which promised to re-think donations have also ended up opting to continue to give in some form.
Toyota (TM) pledged in January to reassess its giving but CREW found that Toyota has recorded $52,000 in donations spread among 35 members of Congress who voted to overturn the election on Jan. 6.
In a statement, Toyota told Yahoo Finance they “do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification” adding that “[b]ased on our thorough review, we decided against giving to some members who, through their statements and actions, undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions.”
Other companies with significant donations to these lawmakers on CREW’s list included Cigna (CI), the insurance company, and CSX Corporation (CSX), the railroad company.
Where the money went
Over $1 million made its way to these GOP members via national party committees.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) both are actively helping all Republicans in their upcoming elections, including the 147 who opposed certification.
The NRSC is led by Rick Scott, who represents Florida in the Senate and opposed certification himself. Eight Republican senators along with 139 House members — a majority of the House Republican conference — voted to sustain one or both of the objections against the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
Maguire said that “both the NRSC and the NRCC exist to protect and defend members of the Republican caucus” including these members adding that “it’s way too convenient a loophole for you to say, well we aren’t funding them directly.”
A range of big named companies, from PNC Financial Services (PNC) to T-Mobile (TMUS) to CVS Health (CVS) to Intel (INTC), appear to have taken exactly this route, recording significant donations to the party committee but zero dollars directly to the 147 lawmakers.
Intel recently said that its “policy halting direct contributions to members of Congress who voted against certification of the Electoral College results still applies.”
Glenn Thompson, a Pennsylvania Congressman who opposed certification and also serves as the Republican leader of the House Agriculture Committee, was the top direct recipient, according to CREW’s data. According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), he has received donations in recent weeks from places like the National Chicken Council, Koch Industries, and the PAC for Deere & Company (DE).
Other top direct recipients — with many of donations visible in their FEC reports — include Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, who is a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Mike Johnson, who serves in the GOP leadership as the House Republican Conference vice chair, and Tommy Tuberville, the newly elected Alabama senator.
Maguire was quick to add that the report doesn’t include entire universes of money from either Super PACs or so called "dark money" that flows into politically active nonprofits.
“The backdrop of all of this data is the fact that we know for a fact that there is a lot more money sloshing around that we can’t track” he said.
Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.
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