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Jan. 6 corporate freeze on campaign donations begins to thaw

After a pause in donations, companies are again giving to GOP members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election.
Posted at 2:48 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 15:49:31-04

UPS is delivering more than packages to Capitol Hill.

New campaign finance records show UPS giving to lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election.

The donations were made after UPS paused political spending in the days following the Jan. 6 insurrection.

"Many of those companies just pulled away: Washington’s burning down, let’s not give any more fuel to it, at least not initially," said Douglas Schuler, an associate professor of business and public policy at Rice University. 

Companies froze campaign donations to avoid heat for funding people who promoted the baseless idea that President Biden didn’t actually win the election, Schuler said.

“A lot of people started asking, Who is behind those members of Congress?” he said.

Newsy reviewed recent filings at the Federal Election Commission and found 16 corporations sending money to Congress again, including to some of the 147 Republican election objectors.

The list includes Ford, General Motors, JetBlue and Lockheed Martin.

Like UPS, they are companies that announced a temporary stop in contributions to all lawmakers after the Capitol riot.

The donations come from employee-sponsored Political Action Committees known as PACs.

UPS reported giving to two Republican election dissenters in a flurry of new PAC donations that also went to Democrats.  UPS never said why it stopped donating after the insurrection and did not respond to questions about why the PAC chose to support election opponents now.

Boeing took a time-out to review political spending in January "to ensure that we support those who not only support our company, but also uphold our country’s most fundamental principles."

Now a new FEC filing shows Boeing’s PAC spending again to Democrats and Republicans, including four who challenged the election.

We asked Boeing: Who would the company not support anymore after its review?

“Thanks for the question,” a Boeing spokesman responded, "but nothing additional to add beyond the statement,” referring to an initial response from the company that said in part, “We will continue to carefully evaluate our giving…”

Cigna said it would no longer donate specifically to lawmakers who encouraged or supported violence, or who "otherwise hindered the peaceful transition of power."

But FEC filings show, two months later Cigna donated to seven members of Congress who tried to prevent certifying the election.

When Newsy asked Cigna about those donations, a spokeswoman referred us to a company statement that said voting against the election was not an act of obstructing a peaceful transition of power.

The FEC records show the companies still not giving to some of the most vocal election skeptics.

"[Missouri Sen. Josh] Hawley with his fist, that was like a very powerful symbol," Schuler said. "There might be a little more attention on those people."

Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest electric companies, is contributing again to a number of home state representatives, but not to Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who the PAC backed in the 2020 election cycle.

That was before the North Carolina congressman spoke to the crowd of Trump supporters just before the Capitol attack.

The FEC records show companies are slowly returning to the long tradition of donating to both parties, focusing on congressional leaders and committee chairpersons, those most able to shape policies the corporations care about. 

It’s a practice Duke Energy’s CEO defended at a recent shareholders meeting.

"We must be a part of the conversation so that we can bring our subject matter, expertise, our experience, the needs of our customers to the table, and we’ll continue to do that," Duke Energy chair, president and CEO Lynn Good said.