Donors Against Democracy: Businesses donate to lawmakers who opposed Biden certification

May 23, 2021

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Many of the companies that halted donations to the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted against the certification of President Biden’s election have since resumed them.

What does this mean?

Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election win sparked allegations of voter fraud and calls to overturn the result. This political unrest climaxed on 6 January 2021 when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to disrupt the certification of Biden’s election.

The siege led many large corporations to pledge that they would stop funding the campaigns of the 147 lawmakers who had voted against the certification. Walmart, Amazon and Morgan Stanley were among those that vowed to halt donations.

Other companies that made more vague promises, such as that they would review their contribution policies or take the certification votes into consideration when awarding funding, have resumed donations. Toyota has donated a total of $62,000 to 40 of the objectors. The car manufacturer stated that it does “not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification”.

What's the big picture effect?

The intersection between America’s corporate and political spheres is increasingly complicated. Now that corporations have cut ties with a significant number of Republican congressmen, the US business community appears at odds with both the Democrat and Republican parties.

Corporations and lawmakers both have a lot to gain from their interactions. Engaging with political candidates gives corporations a voice on policy reform in areas that affect them, and corporate donations support candidates’ campaigns. It is important to note that when lawmakers receive funding from multi-million-dollar companies, there is a risk that decision-making will be skewed in their favour to the detriment of other interest groups. For example, fossil fuel companies donate vast sums to political campaigns. This threatens to give them excessive influence over anti-environmental decisions.

The rise of populism, a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people rather than the elite, was already causing the Republican party to fall out of favour with big businesses. During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump sought to gain mass support by evoking emotive nationalistic sentiment (“Make America Great Again”). To see our article on that, click here. The events of 6 January drove a greater wedge between the party and the business community, as companies scrambled to cut ties with lawmakers who were seen to be undermining democracy, inciting violence and obstructing the peaceful transition of power.

However, business leaders are also finding themselves reluctant to support the Democrats. The Biden administration’s plans to raise corporate taxes may push corporations back to the right when the initial shock of the Capitol siege fades. But for now, it appears to be difficult for corporations to find a comfortable place to sit at the policy table.

Report written by Isobel Deane

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