Corporate Cash and Electoral Plots

January 17th, 2021 - by Mike Tanglis and Taylor Lincoln / Public Citizen

Since 2016, Corporate and Trade Association PACs Have Given $170 Million to Lawmakers Who Voted to Challenge the Presidential Election

Mike Tanglis and Taylor Lincoln / Public Citizen

 (January 13, 2021) — Many in corporate America have signaled their disgust over the insurrection that occurred at the US Capitol last week, as well as with President Trump and the congressional ringleaders who incited the rioters.

But many of these same corporate scolds have acted as reliable funders of the members of Congress who sought last week to void the results of the 2020 presidential election. By Public Citizen’s count, political action committees have contributed a staggering $170 million since the 2016 election cycle to the 147 members of Congress who voted last week to challenge the electoral college slates of at least one state.[1]

Our analysis reveals that 19 of these PACs have contributed at least $1 million each to the disenfranchisers over the past three election cycles. Meanwhile, 46 of these PACs have supported at least 50 percent of the members of Congress who voted to throw out at least part of the 2020 election results.

The top contributors are all trade associations: the National Association of Realtors, the American Bankers Association, the National Automobile Dealers Association and the National Beer Wholesalers Association. The American Bankers Association, which has contributed more than $2 million, in sum, to 120 of the 147 disenfranchisers, declared that the insurrection marked “a dark day for our democracy.”[2]

Public Citizen is not alone in scrutinizing these PAC contributions. The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed the top PAC contributors to the 147 during the 2020 cycle.[3] Popular Information tallied PAC contributions from the country’s largest corporations to Republican senators who voted to throw out the election.[4]

In response to the pro-Trump insurrection, several corporations and trade associations have announced that they would alter their political giving policies.

For example, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan all announced they would pause all of their political giving. Marriott, BlueCross BlueShield and Commerce Bank told Popular Information they were suspending contributions to all 147 disenfranchisers.[5]

The list of corporations modifying their political contribution policies is growing, seemingly, by the hour. While these companies deserve some credit for taking action in the wake of the insurrection — and the corporations that have failed to act merit condemnation — they deserve criticism for waiting so long. Moreover, temporary actions, if that’s all these turn out to be, constitute nothing more than a PR sham. Deferring contributions for a few months at the beginning of an election cycle is no penalty whatsoever.

Donald Trump has trampled on the norms that bind our society and political system since long before he announced his candidacy for president and continued to do so throughout his presidency. Business leaders stood silently while Trump hacked away at the foundation of our country because they welcomed his gifts to them.

Lloyd Blankfein, a former chief executive of Goldman Sachs, explained: “For Wall Street, it was lower taxes, less regulation. He was delivering what ‘we’ wanted. We put a clothespin on our nose,” Blankfein told The New York Times this week. “We weren’t ignorant of the kind of risks we were taking. We repressed them.”[6]

Many of the disenfranchisers have been enabling Trump’s assault on democratic norms and the rule of law throughout his presidency. The corporate benefactors listed in this analysis have likewise helped these lawmakers offer aid and comfort to Trump.

The campaign finance policy changes that some corporations have offered in response to last week’s insurrection, while welcomed, are insufficient. Here’s a not-so-radical suggestion to corporate leaders who truly want to demonstrate their commitment to democracy: Shutter your campaign finance operations for good and return our democracy to the voters. Such a change should entail not just terminating political action committees but, also, forswearing any contributions to unregulated super PACs and to outside groups that spend money to influence elections but keep their donors’ names secret.

Meanwhile, the incoming Biden administration should act quickly to enact an anti-“pay-to-play” executive order that requires federal contractors to disclose the expenditures they make to influence elections. Also, the Securities and Exchange Commission should restart its work to implement a rule requiring publicly traded companies to make comprehensive disclosure of their political activities. It’s time to return to the roots of democracy: people. . . .

Note: Download the full report here.


[1] These totals include contributions from corporate PACs and trade associations to the congressional campaign committees of members of Congress. The data tabulated here do not include contributions from advocacy groups, nor contributions to or from leadership PACs, which are operated by politicians.

[2] Anna Hrushka, Bank Leaders, Trade Groups Condemn Insurrection at US Capitol, Banking Dive (Jan. 7, 2021),

[3] Karl Evers-Hillstrom, Exploring the Top Donors to GOP Electoral College Objectors, Center for Responsive Politics (Jan. 8, 2021),

[4] Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria, Major Corporations Say They Will Stop Donating to Members of Congress Who Tried to Overturn the Election, Popular Information (Jan. 10, 2021),

[5] Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria, Major Corporations Say They Will Stop Donating to Members of Congress Who Tried to Overturn the Election, Popular Information (Jan. 10, 2021),

[6] Andrew Ross Sorkin and Ephrat Livni, When Business and Politics Mix, ‘Character Really Counts’The New York Times (Jan. 9, 2021),

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