Companies sidestep self-imposed bans on GOP donations

Major corporations are finding ways to sidestep their pledges from January to withhold campaign contributions for GOP lawmakers who objected to the 2020 presidential election results.

Dozens of companies said after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that they would stop donating to the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the results, but recent financial disclosures show some are now making direct contributions to the House and Senate GOP campaign arms that dole out funds to those same lawmakers.

Tech giant Intel Corp., for example, contributed $15,000 from its political action committee (PAC) to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) last month.

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Health insurance company Cigna, which said it would halt donations to lawmakers who “encouraged or supported violence,” donated $15,000 in February to the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

Both companies defended their contributions, arguing they’re still adhering to bans on direct donations to those lawmakers. Critics point out that the end result is the same — more corporate money for Republicans who objected to the election results.

“Intel and Cigna are a prime example: Money given to the Republican Party apparatus will clearly also fund those who denied election certification," said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at Public Citizen. "While not directly breaking their pledge, they are undermining it."

Intel said its policy from January hasn’t changed.

“Intel divides its political contributions evenly among Republicans and Democrats, including individual candidates, campaign committees and Governors Associations. We continuously reevaluate our contributions to ensure that they align with our values, policies and priorities,” a spokesperson told The Hill.

The spokesperson did not comment when asked whether Intel has asked the NRCC to ensure its contributions don’t go to lawmakers who voted against certifying the Electoral College results.

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The NRCC in 2020 gave $5,000 to GOP Reps. Lauren BoebertLauren BoebertOmar calls out Boebert over 'anti-Muslim' remarks, denies Capitol incident took place Jan. 6 organizers used burner phones to communicate with White House: report Trump throws support behind Gosar after censure vote MORE (Colo), Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida MORE (Ga.), Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaProposed California maps put incumbents in jeopardy Bipartisan lawmakers target judges' stock trading with new bill How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation MORE (Calif.) and Ronny Jackson (Texas), all of whom voted to overturn the election results.

In the 2020 cycle, Intel gave $30,000 each to the NRCC, NRSC, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Corporate PACs can give $15,000 to national party committees per year.

A Cigna spokesperson said its PAC will continue to support organizations, candidates and elected officials who champion the company’s priorities, including the national campaign committees of both parties.

“We have not wavered from our commitment to disqualify elected officials that incited violence from CignaPAC contributions following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Our standard eliminates direct contributions to any federal or state elected official who encouraged or supported violence or otherwise hindered a peaceful transition of power on that day, or who do so in the future,” the spokesperson added.

Cigna, like Intel, also gave $30,000 each in the 2020 cycle to all congressional party committees. 

The NRSC in 2020 gave $44,600 to Sens. Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallMcConnell backs Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate race Thune endorses Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate race Vaccine 'resisters' are a real problem MORE (R-Kan.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), both of whom voted to overturn the election results. The chairman of the NRSC for the 2022 cycle is Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who also voted against the results.

Contributions to lawmakers are under a microscope in the 2022 election cycle, particularly after strong public stances by major U.S. companies after the Jan. 6 riots.

“It's hard enough to make sure your company's own activities are consistent with your company's values. It's much harder, whether it's a campaign you're giving to or an organization you're giving to, that their values are aligned with your company's values. In some ways, that's an impossible task,” said Paul Washington, executive director of The Conference Board ESG Center, a think tank.

The Conference Board released a report this week highlighting best practices for corporate political activity, telling companies they should prepare for backlash and align political activity with corporate values.

Contributions from other companies are also raising eyebrows.

AT&T's PAC donated $5,000 in February to the House Conservatives Fund, a multi-candidate Republican PAC. A month earlier, the company said its PAC board decided to suspend contributions to members who voted against certifying the election results.

When asked about donating to the House Conservatives Fund, an AT&T spokesperson said, “We have been assured that none of the employee PAC’s contributions will go toward the reelection of any of those members of Congress.”

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The office of Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonOvernight Defense & National Security — Pentagon officials get grilling from House House lawmakers press Pentagon over Afghanistan withdrawal House passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit MORE (R-La.), chairman of the fund, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Blue Cross Blue Shield went further than many companies in January by saying in an internal email, obtained by The Hill at the time, that it would not make any annual contributions to the NRCC or the Republican National Committee. The company did not say how long the ban would last.

Some organizations that made very public declarations after the Jan. 6 insurrection have since softened their tone.

Less than a week after the attack on the Capitol, Chamber of Commerce chief policy officer Neil Bradley said: “There are some members that by their actions will have forfeited the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Period, full stop.”

But the powerful business lobbying group traditionally allied with Republicans said earlier this month that it will not base decisions to support members of Congress solely on their votes against certifying the Electoral College results.

Washington, of The Conference Board ESG Center, said for companies that need to remain politically engaged, there are steps they can take to reduce their risk to public backlash.

“You can be caught by surprise sometimes when you're giving through third-party organizations, so you need to do really thorough vetting of them. Sometimes it's just easier for your risk profile to do it directly,” he said.

Max Greenwood contributed to this report.