Following the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol siege, numerous corporations vowed to stop bribing Republicans who had objected to certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win. They’ve since dipped their toes back into insurrectionist waters and decided the temperature is more to their liking now, even if the piranhas therein are no less apt to skeletonize our democracy.
If the government didn’t occasionally regulate and hold corporations accountable, there’s no limit to what they’d try to get away with. If you think Subway’s bread already looks, tastes, and chemically reacts as if it’s been parboiled to imperfection by Old World artisan bakers in Chris Christie’s unctuous undergirdle, imagine if they were given free rein. You’d have to specifically ask for the anthrax-free bread. And then continually follow up to ensure they don’t mean the anthrax is added free of charge.
But this isn’t a story about Subway, because it doesn’t end with me making an urgent FOIA request to determine how organically similar its bread is to lightly seared Roswell alien. It’s about corporations’ PR decisions—and whether those decisions hold up when the klieg lights of public scrutiny have dimmed.
Spoiler alert: They don’t.
A new report from Politico shows just how wishy-washy these on-again, off-again defenders of democracy have been. According to the site’s analysis, 70 major corporations that promised to pause or reassess their donations to election deniers have since gone back on that vow—to the tune of more than $10 million in (legal, to be fair) bribes.
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.
Almost forgot: One of the guys who decided to spit in the face of democracy when Congress gathered to certify the 2020 presidential elections is the new speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy. We live in interesting times, huh?
“So many corporations sought recognition for halting political spending after Jan. 6, then quietly reopened the money spigot to election deniers when they thought no one was paying attention,” Jeremy Funk, the media relations director for the watchdog group Accountable.US, told Politico. “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.”
Or maybe they decided on their own that they were being “super woke” and wanted to give a fair hearing to both sides—democracy supporters and fascist agitators alike.
Working off lists created by Accountable.US and OpenSecrets, Politico looked at 100 companies and business groups that had pledged to turn off the money spigot to insurrectionist lawmakers. Most later donated to at least one member of Congress who tried to block the certification of a free and fair presidential election. The publication also noted that the companies that had actually kept their promise had given fewer donations to begin with.
Accountable.US also followed up on the 50 Fortune 100 companies that had decided to reconsider and/or pause donations following Jan. 6 and found that “34 went on to give at least $5.6 million to members who voted against certification over the last two years.”
Cigna, for example, told its employees in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6 that it would “discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered the peaceful transition of power.” But the health insurance company was among the first of these corporations to resume donating to election deniers.
But Cigna was hardly alone. According to the analysis, AT&T, Boeing, Comcast, General Motors, Home Depot, Lockheed Martin, Marathon Petroleum, Pfizer, Raytheon, UPS, UnitedHealth, Valaro, Verizon, and Walmart all gave at least $100,000 to election deniers via their PACs.
So, yeah, corporations won’t save our democracy. It’s more reasonable to assume they’ll pretend to save our democracy as long as they know we’re watching. Which, apparently, too many of us aren’t anymore.
Maybe it’s time we do pay attention and start voting with our wallets. To get started, here’s Accountable.US’ list of election deniers who have received the most corporate largesse. And guess who’s at the top of the list? I’ll give you 15 guesses—but don’t use them all, because that would be really fucking embarrassing. I mean, just totally, totally humiliating. Mortifying, really.
Then again, I’m fairly certain you only need one.
Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.