Texas companies resumed PAC donations to Jan. 6 election objectors
WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, major companies and trade associations announced they would at least temporarily halt campaign donations to lawmakers who objected to certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.
Some swore off campaign donations to anyone, regardless where they stood that day, in hopes that would avoid antagonizing either side.
But within months, many of those companies’ political action committees quietly resumed cutting checks as they sought to influence legislation.
Critics see short-term virtue-signaling after a mob attacked Congress hoping to overturn Donald Trump’s defeat, before corporate America reverted to self-interest.
“These big businesses made a choice to maintain political influence with extremists in Congress rather than help preserve our democracy,” Jeremy Funk, spokesperson for the left-leaning Accountable.US, said in a statement. “If they first checked with their customers and shareholders, they’d realize a healthy democracy will always be what’s best for business.”
Texas-based companies such as Cheniere Energy, a major liquified natural gas producer, put away their political checkbooks after Jan. 6. A week after the attack, the company said its political action committee would suspend donations to individual lawmakers.
” We at Cheniere were disturbed and disheartened by the violent and deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol last week that infringed upon our democratic process as part of efforts to delegitimize the election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris,” the company said.
But months later, the Cheniere PAC resumed donations. It even boosted the total amount to those who had objected to certifying Biden’s victory, compared with the previous election cycle, according to a new analysis from Accountable.US.
The group, which seeks to spotlight corporate influence in politics, established a website to track corporate PAC donations to lawmakers who objected to certifying Biden’s victory.
Companies aren’t allowed to make campaign donations directly.
The analysis covered contributions from the PACs of Fortune 500 corporations and more than 700 trade associations.
It did not include contributions to leadership PACs or super PACs. And to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison, it omitted donations to lawmakers who didn’t seek re-election.
Nancy Bocskor, former director of the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy at Texas Woman’s University and a longtime GOP fundraiser, said the pause after Jan. 6 came at a lull in the campaign cycle — so far from the next election that companies weren’t likely to be writing many checks yet anyway.
“The ‘pause’ was really already planned,” said Bocskor.
The timing gave companies a chance to assess the fallout after Jan. 6. The government was not overthrown. Biden became president. The election objectors continued to hold positions of power and companies are well aware of the saying that those not at the table end up on the menu.
Among the Texas companies, Cheniere had the biggest increase in support for election objectors, according to the analysis, boosting the $20,500 it gave those members in 2020 elections to $94,000 for 2022 races.
“Cheniere PAC contributions support House and Senate members who represent the communities where our people live and work, and who encourage the production of U.S. liquefied natural gas,” Khary Cauthen, the company’s vice president of federal government affairs, said in a statement last week.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, helped lead objections to certifying Biden’s electoral victory, arguing that public skepticism about the outcome justified delay. In the House, 16 Texas Republicans joined him.
Every state had certified the results that Congress reviewed that day. No court has affirmed allegations from Trump and some of his allies about widespread fraud.
Biden won by a decisive 306-232 margin in the stateby-state Electoral College tally, and topped Trump 81 million votes to 74 million.
Dozens of companies and trade groups announced they were halting donations to the objectors from their PACs. Some stuck with that approach, refraining throughout the 2022 cycle.
But most eventually resumed donations.
Overall contributions from major companies and trade associations to the objectors fell about 10% from 2020 to 2022. But at least 258 of those donors increased what they contributed.
The Accountable.US analysis shows that 34 Texas-based companies contributed to election objectors in the 2020 and 2022 elections. The overall amount fell 12%, though 15 of them boosted their totals to election objectors.
The top five contributed $1,371,650.
AT&T donated $604,900 to election objectors during the 2022 elections.
The company had previously drawn criticism for backing away from its promise of withholding such support.
AT&T said last week that it had suspended contributions for more than a year for lawmakers who objected to certification.
“Our employee PACs contribute to both parties and focus on policies and regulations that are important to investing in broadband networks and hiring, developing, and retaining a skilled workforce with competitive wages and benefits,” the company said in a statement. “A contribution to an elected official does not mean our employee PACs support or agree with every position the official takes.”
Valero Energy increased its donations to election objectors from $220,000 in 2020 to $272,500 in 2022. It did not respond to requests for comment.
ExxonMobil contributed $208,250 during the 2022 elections. The company declined comment beyond saying its PAC engages with institutions and candidates on important issues such as energy and tax policy.
American Airlines paused its donations for months, but in the end increased its donations from $93,500 in the 2020 elections to $160,000 in the 2022 elections.
“We resumed giving from our PAC, which is funded through voluntary contributions from our team members, because we believe engagement in the political and legislative process is important to the success of American Airlines and our team,” the company said.
“Our focus is on lawmakers from both parties whose policy priorities include supporting U.S. aviation and our workforce. There is no lawmaker with whom we agree about every issue.”
USAA donated $126,000 to election objectors in the 2022 elections. It did not respond to requests for comment.