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Republicans scramble to contain fallout as donors distance themselves

Republicans are scrambling to contain the fallout as major donors freeze political contributions and distance themselves from lawmakers who voted to overturn the Electoral College results.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWatch live: McCarthy holds press briefing Biden vows to work with Congress to 'refine' voting rights bill House passes voting rights and elections reform bill MORE (R-Calif.), who voted to reject electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, has been calling existing donors trying to calm nerves, saying that  despite the riot at the Capitol that was an effort to impede the transition of power  he and his party can work with the incoming Biden administration.

But many big-name corporations and businesses have indicated they’re in no rush to resume contributions to Republicans who objected to the presidential election results. 

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McCarthy made a round of calls to donors on Wednesday, according to multiple sources. At least one call was made up of friendly major donors who largely didn’t push back. The leader's remarks seemed more scripted than not. He took three questions and then had to run to the airport, one source said.

“He’s trying to calm down donors. I think he’s trying to assure them that they want to work with President Biden and the vote did not mean that they won’t support Biden initiatives, like infrastructure, debt ceiling, COVID relief,” a Republican donor said.

Corporations are targeting the 147 GOP lawmakers who voted to challenge the 2020 election results in Arizona or Pennsylvania last week, even after the deadly attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

One lobbyist described McCarthy's calls to donors: “I would equate it to trying to get a plane out of a spin, trying to level the wings.”

But many corporations are not just questioning the GOP’s ability to work with Democrats, they are trying to distance themselves from the ugly scenes in D.C. last Wednesday.

Comcast was the top corporate donor to McCarthy’s leadership PAC and campaign committee, with its individuals and PAC donating $87,600 in 2020. The company is now suspending contributions to lawmakers who voted against the election results, saying that the violence at the U.S. Capitol last week was “appalling.” 

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Blue Cross Blue Shield is also a top donor to McCarthy’s leadership PAC and campaign committee, and its individuals and PAC gave them more than $62,200. The health insurance giant is now also suspending contributions to lawmakers who “voted to undermine our democracy.”

“I think he’s trying to figure out how to lead in a very difficult circumstance,” the Republican donor said. “He’s got pressure on the left, he’s got pressure from the center, he’s got pressure from the right and from his members. He’s doing better than anyone else could do in the conference.”

Individuals and the corporate PAC at Amazon gave McCarthy’s leadership PAC and campaign committee more than $43,100. Now, Amazon is pausing donations to lawmakers who voted against the results, calling it an “unacceptable attempt to undermine a legitimate democratic process.”

McCarthy isn’t the only Republican making calls in an attempt to ease tensions. 

Republican lawmakers, both from leadership and rank-and-file, those who voted to overturn the election results and those who didn't, have been making calls to feel out the mood of corporate donors, according to multiple sources. 

Republicans are asking lobbyists about the temperature of their clients, while the list of companies saying they won’t donate to the lawmakers who voted against the election results is growing.

“[Lawmakers are asking] 'What are the executives saying at the C-suite level?' 'Do you know what the posture is of your client?' Or members call you to explain their rationale. I haven’t had anybody calling to beg or anything like that,” a lobbyist said. “They are concerned about a full-scale backlash, but I don’t know if I would use the word panicking.”

“A lot of what you hear is we need to figure out how to heal the country, get through the next week and try to figure out how to get back to normal,” the lobbyist said.

Some corporations said they have not received lawmaker calls yet, indicating the lawmakers are working through lobbyists and fundraisers first.

The biggest impact financially will likely be on rank-and-file members who voted to challenge the election results and don’t have a large individual donor base from grass-roots donors or wealthy personal donors. GOP leadership and those who aren’t largely reliant on corporate PACs don’t care as much about the fallout, sources said. 

But Republicans who didn't vote to overturn the election results are also frustrated with the situation because of the further partisanship it could lead to, one source said. They, and Democrats, are also feeling the sting of some corporations who are pausing political donations altogether.

"Many GOP members who didn't vote to object are just as frustrated as Democrats with the suspension on corporate donations. They are concerned that any sustained retribution from donors, and also from their Democratic colleagues, will make it even harder for the two parties to work together in a year when many hoped the tone would improve," a lobbyist said. 

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Traditional resources for campaign contributions to Republicans are also quickly pulling their support and criticizing the direction of the party.

A typically reliable resource for Republicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, vowed to withhold support going forward for certain members.

“There are some members that by their actions will have forfeited the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Period, full stop,” Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the Chamber, said at a press conference on Tuesday. He did not specify whose support has been pulled but said Chamber leadership will have “a lot more to say” as they evaluate the situation. 

Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, a billionaire and longtime Republican donor, said on Wednesday he felt “betrayed” by Trump and urged Americans to unify so Biden can be “the most successful president in the history of this country.”

Langone in 2020 gave $1.25 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC to support a Republican majority in the Senate, and $600,000 to Americans for Prosperity Action, the super PAC linked to the network formed by billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch.

The National Association of Realtors is the largest bipartisan PAC on behalf of a trade association and in 2020 gave nearly $3.6 million to federal candidates, more than 47 percent of which went to Republicans. The PAC board decided on Tuesday to temporality pause federal political disbursements.