Did Corporate America ever honestly care about preserving our democracy?
More than a year since the deadly insurrection on the U.S. Capitol spurred a flurry of corporate promises to defend democracy. For many of the country’s biggest companies and trade groups, those promises were broken when they funneled millions of dollars to election objectors in Congress.
Table of Contents
Summary | Altria Group | Boeing | Chevron | Cigna | Duke Energy | Eli Lilly | ExxonMobil | FedEx | General Dynamics | General Motors | Johnson & Johnson | L3Harris Technologies | Lockheed Martin | Merck | Northrop Grumman | Pfizer | Raytheon Technologies | Regions Financial | UPS | Valero Energy | American Bankers Association | Associated Builders and Contractors | Credit Union National Association | Crop Insurance Professionals Association | Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America | National Automobile Dealers Association | National Cattlemen’s Beef Association | National Electric Contractors Association | National Shooting Sports Foundation | National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association
A year ago, violent rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol, armed with Trump’s Big Lie and bolstered by a cabal of extreme-right Congress members who refused to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Insurrectionists stormed the halls, breaking into the Senate Chamber and the House Speaker’s private office. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick and several other attendees and officers died in the wake of the attack, and members of Congress feared for their lives while taking cover.
In the aftermath, Corporate America declared enough was enough. By the week’s end, nearly every major company in the U.S.—from consumer retailers to defense contractors to pharmaceutical companies—condemned the deadly attack, and dozens committed to cutting off the lawmakers involved.
As the words “January 6” morphed from a date on the calendar to the invocation of an American tragedy, our democracy continued to face threats from Trump’s continued election fraud lies. By year’s end, over 30 state laws would be enacted making it harder for Americans to vote and a European think tank would label the U.S. a “backsliding democracy.” And despite all of this, corporations and trade groups still donated over $8.1 million to the 147 members of the Sedition Caucus ¹—the members of Congress who validated dangerous myths of voter fraud by objecting to election certification.
How much did Fortune 500 companies and big corporate lobbyists spend on the Sedition Caucus over the past year? What promises to Americans are they breaking? And given the increasing volume of corporate donations to those who used their power to try to overturn a free and fair election…the question remains, did companies ever honestly care about defending our democracy? For many, it seems holding political influence trumps everything else.
- What Pause?: After the insurrection, major corporate donations subsided for a single quarter but reached nearly $3 million in Q2 and Q3 respectively; given October’s total, Q4 is on pace to be the largest quarter of the year.
- Corporate Complicity: At least 85 percent of the corporations that we profiled—17 of the 20—are major contributors to the Sedition Caucus and either pledged to or publicly considered pausing or reviewing their political spending after the January 6 insurrection.
- Purported Values: At least 60 percent of the trade groups that we profiled —6 of the 10—have stated values on furthering diversity initiatives despite their political donations to the Sedition Caucus.
- Enemies Foreign but not Domestic: 100 percent of the defense contractors profiled—6 of the 6—claim to help protect the nation and people around the world, despite that they are major contributors to the members of Congress who voted to object to the 2020 electoral college vote, which helped incite the attack on the Capitol.
- Ties to Trump: At least 53 percent of the companies and trade associations profiled—16 of the 30—have connections to the conservative establishment or former President Trump.
Donation totals for each corporation and trade group were accessed on DECEMBER 22, 2021.
Altria strongly condemns the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol. January 6 was a dark day in American history, and we look forward to the peaceful transition of power that will occur on January 20.”
– Altria spokesperson Steve Callahan to Popular Information, Jan. 10, 2021
Tobacco giant Altria has made a public-facing effort to support democracy. In 2021, the company condemned the insurrection, openly opposed voter suppression legislation, and announced a suspension to its political donations after January 6 so the company could review its contribution criteria.
The effort appears to have stopped there. In 2021, the company spent at least $84,500 on campaign contributions to those who voted against certifying the 2020 election results, and Altria has donated to the governors of Georgia and Texas who signed voting restrictions into law.
Boeing strongly condemns the violence, lawlessness and destruction that took place in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Given the current environment, we are not making political contributions at this time.”
– Boeing Communications, Jan. 14, 2021
Boeing is a well-known corporation in the Fortune 100 that has claimed to hold itself to the “highest ethical standards” and keep the company accountable to processes that promote trust and transparency.
Trust and transparency appear to be at odds with the company’s decision to condemn the insurrection in January 2021 and to spend the rest of the year donating a total of $190,000 to Congress’ Sedition Caucus.
We call for the peaceful transition of the U.S. government. The violence in Washington, D.C. tarnishes a two-century tradition of respect for the rule of law. We look forward to engaging with President-Elect Biden and his administration to move the nation forward.”
– @Chevron on Twitter, Jan. 6, 2021
Chevron’s response to the insurrection seemed prompt and appropriate at first—the company’s CEO confirmed the following week that Chevron was taking care to review its political donations in the wake of the violent attack on our Capitol. Even in April, Chevron still claimed a commitment to supporting candidates who promoted democracy.
By May, that commitment was out the window—$62,500 in donations to the Sedition Caucus trickled in throughout the rest of the year. The company has also donated to Texas’ governor and attorney general, who helped spread the Big Lie and restrict ballot access.
Health insurer Cigna will stop giving money to elected officials who ‘encouraged or supported violence’ during last week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol by followers of President Donald Trump.
- CNBC, Jan. 12, 2021
Global health insurance company Cigna claims to put the health, well-being and peace of mind of its customers above all else. After seeing the violence inflicted during the insurrection, the company and its executives condemned these actions. Chief Human Resources Officer John Murabito said democracy “makes our nation strong” in a memo announcing Cigna’s decision to halt donations to lawmakers who spurred the insurrection.
However, by the end of 2021, the company’s PAC had gone back on its word to the tune of $30,000. Additionally, Cigna has made donations to anti-democratic officials in Texas who shepherded a controversial voter suppression bill to passage.
We were shocked and dismayed by the events at the Capitol last week. Duke Energy is taking this very seriously...
– Grace Rountree, Duke Energy spokesperson, Jan. 15, 2021
Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Duke Energy is one of America’s largest energy holding companies, serving nearly 8 million customers and employing tens of thousands of Americans. According to the company, it cares strongly about the democratic process, and makes its political donations in line with company values of safety, integrity and service.
But in the months since the certainly unsafe and undemocratic insurrection at the Capitol, Duke Energy has donated a total of $55,000 to members of Congress who refused to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
We expect any candidate we support to demonstrate respect for people and respect for our democratic process and institutions. […] This certainly covers anyone who promoted violence or sedition that contributed to the appalling events on January 6th...
- Eli Lilly spokesperson Bradley Jacklin, Jan. 2021
Indiana-based pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly spoke out against the insurrection in January, implying that legislators who voted against certifying the 2020 election results were disrespectful of America’s democratic process. The corporation pledged to stop donating to the Sedition Caucus in a show of support for democracy.
By July 2021, the donations resumed. Eli Lilly gave $17,000 to election objectors in the months since the insurrection and previously funneled money to Governor of Georgia Brian Kemp, who signed into law one of the most restrictive voter suppression bills in the country .
Before giving to any political candidate, the ExxonMobil PAC has a robust process to assess the candidate’s platform, prior voting record, and consistency with the company’s priorities.”
– ExxonMobil, Jan. 13, 2021
ExxonMobil has made it clear to the public that its political contributions are subject to a lengthy vetting process and regular reviews. Exxon stated that any past recipients aren’t guaranteed to receive a donation from the corporation in the future.
It is evident that the company’s “process” doesn’t include weeding out of lawmakers who spent months supporting baseless and dangerous claims about election fraud, stoking a fatal attack on our nation’s Capitol. The corporation donated a total of $39,000 to election objectors post-insurrection. ExxonMobil has given even more to Governor of Texas Greg Abbott, who signed an anti-democratic voter suppression bill into law.
Multiple factors impact our decisions to support candidates, and we are reviewing all future political contributions. We condemn the violence that occurred in Washington, D.C., and fully support the results of the U.S. general election.
– FedEx statement, Jan. 2021
Following the insurrection, FedEx joined many other major U.S. companies in condemning the violence at the Capitol, and even assured Americans that the company looked forward to working with the incoming Biden administration on policy matters relevant to FedEx and its customers. The company promised to review all future contributions.
This review did not bar FedEx from donating $34,500 in 2021 to the very people whose actions helped fuel the violence the company condemned in January 2021. Fanning the anti-democracy flames even more, FedEx has supported Tennessee’s governor and Secretary of State while they pushed anti-voting rights legislation.
Every day, GDIT is helping customs, law enforcement, and transport authorities combat terrorism, respond to natural disasters, and protect the nation.
– General Dynamics website
General Dynamics, a major defense contractor, prides itself on its support of government and the rule of law—the corporation claims that its “North Star” for carrying out its commitment to human rights is the laws and policies of the U.S. government. General Dynamics touts its relationship to law enforcement as well, claiming that the company helps protect the nation.
After a violent uprising during which countless rioters broke the law, 140 law enforcement officers were injured and five died in the fallout of the attack, and legislators defied the U.S. government’s policy of facilitating a smooth transition of power, General Dynamics went on to donate $161,500 to election objectors.
Following the events that transpired at the U.S. Capitol last week, a swath of major U.S. companies have announced that they will withhold political contributions, at least for now. General Motors…[announced] that it will withhold contributions from all members of Congress…
– GM Authority, Jan. 13, 2021
According to General Motors, the company began reevaluating the character of candidates it donates to months before the insurrection, emphasizing “public integrity” when making choices about who to contribute to, and ensuring those candidates reflect “issues of importance” for GM.
Those important issues must not include a commitment to upholding democracy. General Motors gave $41,500 to the Sedition Caucus since the insurrection. Additionally, the company has given thousands to the governors of Texas and Georgia, who each signed anti-voting rights bills into law.
As an American, as a colleague to tens of thousands of Johnson & Johnson employees in the country, and as a U.S. military veteran who served overseas to protect our democracy, I’m devastated by this assault on what our country has stood for since its founding: free, fair and peaceful elections.
– Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, Jan. 6, 2021
Alex Gorsky, the CEO and Chairman of Johnson & Johnson, gave an impassioned statement the day of the insurrection, claiming to view the attack as an assault on free and fair elections, one of our country’s founding principles. As part of charting “our path to a better and healthier future”, the company paused all political contributions on January 14, 2021.
By August of that year, all bets were off. The company has poured $12,500 into election objectors’ campaigns since then.
Our decisions and actions are based on ethical, honest and accountable practices.
– L3Harris Technologies website
L3Harris Technologies is a defense contractor that claims corporate values of integrity, excellence and respect that influence its decisions as a company, and boasts its “community-minded” approach to problem-solving.
It’s difficult to find something respectful and community-minded about the company’s choice to donate $82,500 to members of the Sedition Caucus over the past year.
…the company ‘routinely evaluates and updates our political action committee contribution strategy to reflect our core values and the constantly changing political landscape and priorities. As we enter a new political cycle, we are not making political contributions…
– Defense News reporting on Lockheed Martin, Jan. 14, 2021
Lockheed Martin is one of the largest defense contractors in the world, counting the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. federal agencies as its biggest customers. The company has claimed to hold itself to the highest standards of professionalism, ethical conduct, and compliance with the law.
However, the lawlessness displayed on January 6 was not enough to prevent the company from contributing to the campaign coffers of dozens of election objectors in 2021, for a total of $131,500.
…leaders of some of the largest U.S. companies said they were considering withholding donations to Republican lawmakers seeking to impede the presidential transition…Among business leaders on the call [was]… Merck & Co. CEO Ken Frazier…
– The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 6, 2021
Executives at Merck, a major pharmaceutical company, seemed to have clear opinions about the sanctity of democracy and the danger of the insurrection right after January 6. Then-CEO Ken Frazier warned that companies shouldn’t take democracy for granted, and that the events of January 6 threatened the rule of law in America. When pondering how to act as a corporation, board member Thomas Glocer agreed that there needed to be “some level of cost” for election objectors.
Apparently, it just wouldn’t be a financial cost. Merck continued to donate to the election objectors throughout 2021, to the tune of $42,000.
On Monday evening Northrop Grumman became the first defense manufacturer to halt all donations from its political action committee, joining a growing corporate backlash against the Capitol violence Wednesday.
– The Washington Post, Jan. 12, 2021
After the insurrection, Northrop Grumman made news as the first defense contractor to suspend political donations and “[evaluate] the way forward.” For a company claiming that its work helps preserve freedom and democracy, the decision made sense.
The company’s decision to resume donations does not. Over the past year, Northrop Grumman gave $81,000 to the Sedition Caucus.
In the wake of last week’s violent and unlawful attack on the U.S. Capitol, we feel it is important to reinforce that Pfizer PAC supports individuals who are guided by the principles that mirror Pfizer’s core values…
– Internal Pfizer memo, January 2021
Though pharmaceutical giant Pfizer immediately suspended donations to election objectors in the wake of the attack on the Capitol, the company re-upped its pledge in March 2021 after a donation to Rep. Adrian Smith was made “in error,” and the donation was reversed.
Pfizer may have avoided that controversy. By August, the company began donating to the Sedition Caucus again, giving at least $30,000 in 2021 and the company didn’t try to excuse these contributions as mistakes anymore. In addition, Pfizer has given thousands to Georgia’s anti-voting rights governor.
[Raytheon] paused all political action committee contributions to reflect on the current environment and determine appropriate next steps.”
– Raytheon spokesperson Chris Johnson, Jan. 2021
Earlier this year the CEO of Raytheon Technologies, a major defense contractor in the U.S., gave an interview referencing the company’s mission to protect democracy—going as far as bragging that Raytheon’s commitment to democracy made the company an attractive employer.
It was only a few months after the CEO’s proclamation when Raytheon began pouring $119,500 this year into the campaign war chests of the Sedition Caucus.
This is a time for us, as a nation, to come together and identify a united path forward. During this time, Regions will receive updated feedback from employees who donate to the PAC.
– Regions Bank statement on political donations after Jan. 6, 2021
After the insurrection, Regions Financial, an Alabama-based bank holding company, claimed that it was a good time for Americans to “consider productive ways to move forward and build a stronger nation.” For its part, the company suspended federal-level political donations and encouraged feedback from Regions employees to inform future political donation recipients.
It only took a few months for the company to resume its donations—including contributions to 41 election objectors totaling $82,500.
We are appalled by the lawlessness and violence that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol and strongly condemn the actions of those individuals who participated in the illegal activities that destroyed property and cost lives.
– UPS CEO Carol B. Tomé, Jan. 7, 2021
In the wake of the insurrection, UPS quickly responded with a statement to tell the public that the company values America’s democratic process as a “sacred cornerstone” and promised to operate by its corporate values of fairness and integrity.
This commitment didn’t last long. By July of 2021, UPS was instead valuing “critical” engagement with members of Congress who objected to the 2020 election results—to the tune of $130,000.
We will continue to evaluate future contributions to assure they serve the best interest and values of our employees, shareholders, and the communities where we operate.
– Valero Energy spokesperson Lillian Riojas statement on the insurrection, Jan. 2021
Oil refiner Valero Energy committed to pausing political donations in the days following the insurrection, in line with the company’s stated values for human rights, including “genuine elections”. The company claimed at the time to prioritize making sure their future donations served the best interest of the communities where Valero operates.
It’s unclear what communities are helped by Valero reversing course and donating $77,500 to election objectors over the past year—or by the over $300,000 to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who just this year signed an anti-democratic voter suppression bill.
In addition to Fortune 500 corporations, several large trade associations have remained generous donors to the Sedition Caucus, flying in the face of their clearly stated values. These groups represent even more of the ultra-wealthy companies in America, like JPMorgan Chase and McDonald’s. Many have experienced political operatives at the highest ranks of their leadership, and act as lobbying arms for their industries—and their donations seem to signal that protecting their relationships on the Hill is a higher priority than standing up for democracy.
This is a dark day for our democracy…At this challenging moment for our country, and for so many Americans, our elected leaders must immediately condemn today’s mob riot…
– American Bankers Association statement, Jan. 6, 2021
The American Bankers Association is a trade group made of representatives from some of the largest banks in the country, including JPMorgan Chase. After calling January 6 “a dark day for our democracy”, the group implored elected officials to commit to facilitating a smooth transition of power.
Then, the group turned around and spent the rest of the year putting money in the Sedition Caucus’ pockets—at least $164,500, to be exact.
Associated Builders and Contractors believes in the foundations of democracy, which include free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power.
– ABC VP of Legislative and Political Affairs, Kristen Swearington, June 7, 2021
The Associated Builders and Contractors is a trade group that has claimed democracy as a guiding value, and has stressed the importance of fair elections in our country.
Despite this, the trade group notably did not condemn the January 6 insurrection, a clear display of anti-democratic values and violence, and continued to donate $131,000 throughout 2021 to the Sedition Caucus.
What we are witnessing is outrageous, without precedent, and runs counter to our values as Americans.
– CUNA President and CEO, Jim Nussle, statement on Jan. 6, 2021
The Credit Union National Association, which calls itself the most influential financial services trade association in the US, is helmed by President and CEO Jim Nussle. Nussle fiercely condemned the insurrection, and looking ahead, said that he saw the moment as an opportunity to “do better and be better.”
And yet, in the proceeding months, CUNA proceeded to donate $176,500 to the lawmakers who helped inspire the insurrection.
I take great personal pride in the fact that CIPA members are of the highest moral and ethical character, always striving to do what is best for the program and best for our customers who depend on us.
– Message from CIPA Chairman, William Cole
The Crop Insurance Professionals Association is a trade group that clearly values its political influence in Washington, as evidenced by the tens of thousands of dollars it spent lobbying Congress in just the first few months of 2021 .
Its inaction and silence in the wake of the insurrection speaks volumes. Not to mention the $112,500 it spent donating to election objectors on the Hill throughout last year.
Yesterday’s violence at the U.S. Capitol was appalling and inexcusable. The Big ‘I’ strongly condemns those who endangered lives and desecrated this powerful symbol of our democracy.
– The Big “I” CEO and President, Bob Rusboldt, Jan. 7, 2021
The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) is a trade organization that claims to represent an industry that keeps people safe and protected. After the insurrection, its President and CEO came out strongly against the violence at the Capitol.
Those values didn’t preclude the organization from donating $116,000 to election objectors in the months following January 6.
NADA members comply fully with all federal, state, and local laws governing their businesses…[and] operate this business in accord with the highest standards of ethical conduct.
– NADA Code of Ethics
The National Automobile Dealers Association makes political contributions to hundreds of members of Congress every election cycle, but after the insurrection, the trade group pledged to reassess its donations moving forward.
Apparently, those assessments weren’t enough to prevent NADA from donating $160,000 to the Sedition Caucus after January 6.
McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski […] condemned the insurrection this week as ‘unimaginable attacks on democratic norms and institutions in Washington D.C.’ in a letter sent to the McDonald’s system…
– Business Insider report on NCBA member company, McDonald’s, Jan. 8, 2021
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is a trade group that counts some of the most well-known food industry businesses in the country as its members. Three of them, McDonald’s, Tyson Foods, and Cargill, all condemned the insurrection back in January 2021.
The NCBA, though, didn’t share those values—opting to donate $133,500 to Sedition Caucus members throughout 2021.
We will mutually, with ethics and integrity, continue to improve ourselves and our industry…
– NECA website
The National Electric Contractors Association, by its own account, supports ethical business practices, cooperation, and goodwill. NECA recently formed a diversity, equity and inclusion task force meant to create a cultural shift for the organization.
These commitments are at odds with NECA’s $117,000 in donations to election objectors in Congress made over the past year.
The firearm industry leads the way in providing real solutions to make communities safe… firearm industry initiatives help to save lives and prevent crime.
– NSSF website
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is a trade organization with a primary mission of promoting responsible gun ownership and “keeping guns out of the wrong hands.”
The group was strikingly silent after an insurrection where armed rioters attacked America’s Capitol, after which several people were arrested and charged with crimes related to brandishing firearms. The group made clear where they stand, however, when they funneled $106,891 in campaign cash to the Sedition Caucus during 2021.
NSSGA commends a record number of citizens for exercising their right to vote and congratulates the winners of this historic election…We look forward to working with the Biden Administration and the 117th Congress.
– Statement from NSSGA CEO and President, Michael Johnson
The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association is a trade group whose CEO and President, Michael Johnson, congratulated Joe Biden on his win in the 2020 presidential election. The NSSGA President celebrated voters in the same statement, and expressed that he would look forward to working with the new administration.
Those feelings are at odds with those of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, galvanized by election objectors in Congress who spread the Big Lie for months—the same members of Congress that NSSGA supported with $110,500 in donations in 2021.