They include its founder, the businessman Tahir Mohsan, and CFO Philip Walker.
Dowden praised the firm and its Blackburn network, saying: “I am delighted to join you for the virtual opening of your Blackburn gigabit network, which is really going to provide some of the fastest broadband on the planet to tens of thousands of people across the North West.
He describes its work as “part of this government’s once-in-a-lifetime upgrade to the digital infrastructure.”
“I would like to really pay tribute to you and other alternative network providers in that mission, particularly in the North West. The Blackburn network has been built in only nine months and I know you have got very exciting ambitions to reach another 250,000 premises this year and to reach 4 million premises by 2025.”
Dowden’s claim the network had only been built in only nine months is at odds with previous releases from the firm, which first announced the network in mid-2019, ISPreview reported.
Dowden tied the company’s work in with the government’s wider “leveling up” agenda, saying: “I think this is some of the most important work that we are doing in government, particularly in our bid to level up the north and the rest of the UK.”
Dowden said he hopes to support the company in the future “through many many more moments just like this.”
Another of his clients is the firm Aquind, which has similarly made donations to Conservative MPs and gained the support of government ministers, as well as lobbying them, The Times of London reported.
Wharton is also the chair of the Office for Students and has made political donations to the Conservative party while claiming furlough support from the government, Insider has previously reported.
But one MP, Matt Vickers, holds a constituency on the other side of the country – Wharton’s former seat of Stockton South.
Anneliese Dodds MP, chair of the opposition Labour Party, told Insider: “Boris Johnson’s decision to reward James Wharton with a peerage continues to pay off for the Conservatives.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about companies with links to Johnson’s chum dishing out cash to Tory MPs.
“Day after day we hear of new cases of Tory sleaze. The Conservatives have to clean up their act and put an end to this grubby cronyism.”
Steve Goodrich, Head of Research and Investigations at Transparency International UK told Insider: “When elected to Parliament, it is critical our representatives scrupulously avoid any activity that could give the perception of being in the pocket of vested interests.
“Donations from companies and wealthy individuals have the potential to create conflicts of interest if the concerns of MPs’ financial backers are at odds with those of their constituents.
“Voters need to be able to trust that decisions are always being taken in the public interest and not on the basis of a commercial relationship.”
A DCMS spokesperson told Insider: “We work closely with the telecoms sector to boost digital connectivity and level up the country and Ministers regularly support industry announcements.
“This event was handled by the department in the usual way and the Secretary of State has no personal connection to the company in question.”
Insider asked DCMS if Dowden was aware of the links to Conservative Party figures or donations when he launched the network, but the department did not respond to this question.
Insider contacted Wharton and IX Wireless but did not receive a comment by time of publication.
GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas reportedly donated $5,500 to an anti-gay and antisemitic pastor last December, but his office says that situation occurred due to a name mix-up, according to The Daily Beast.
Gohmert staffers say that they hired a Christian singer named Steve Amerson from Granada Hills, California, but mistakenly filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that the money was given to Steve Anderson, the Holocaust-denying pastor of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona.
Gohmert chief of staff Connie Hair told the The Daily Beast that the occurrence was a huge misunderstanding, the result of a botched internet search for an address by the congressman’s treasurer, William Long.
Hair contended that it was Amerson, the singer, who actually received the payment, which was issued for a Gohmert fundraiser appearance, and reiterated that the money was not a donation.
“That’s who it was written to, and Louie gave it to him, and when Bill Long got the check and the charge, he searched ‘Anderson Ministries’ instead of ‘Amerson,'” she said. “Bill Long is amending our filing.”
Anderson’s church is part of the New Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement, which holds deeply conservative religious beliefs, including vocal anti-gay stances.
The church’s doctrinal statement lists that “homosexuality is a sin and an abomination which God punishes with the death penalty.”
In 2016, Anderson praised the mass shooting that killed 49 people at Pulse, the gay bar and nightclub in Orlando, saying that “there are 50 less pedophiles in this world.”
Anderson’s extremist views have a long trail on the internet.
Sermons listed on his IMDb page include antisemitic titles such as “The Jews Are Our Enemies” and “The Jews Killed Jesus.”
In a 2015 report, the Anti-Defamation League noted that Anderson spread claims that millions of Jews had not been gassed and cremated in Nazi Germany during World War II.
“The real ‘burnt offering’ is going to be when all of these Jews that don’t believe in Jesus Christ go to hell for eternity,” Anderson said in one of the videos. “That’s the oven that they ought to be worried about.”
Aryeh Tuchman, the associate director at the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told The Daily Beast that Anderson’s movement now includes 30 houses of worship.
“He is a highly problematic individual who pumps antisemitism, hatred and bigotry into the rhetoric, the preachings, and the teachings of these other churches,” he said.
When The Daily Beast reached out to Anderson, his wife Zsuzsanna said that he was unavailable, but she confirmed that neither she nor her husband personally knew or supported Gohmert.
“We can neither confirm nor deny that such a donation was made to our ministry,” she said. “We don’t follow the donations closely, and don’t see the urgency of setting aside the time on a very busy week to look into the financial records.”
She added: “Anybody is allowed to donate to our ministry and we’re thankful for it and we’ll put it toward the Lord’s work.”
A Conservative member of the House of Lords, whose peerage was forced through last year by Boris Johnson despite his role in a cash-for-access scandal, has handed the prime minister’s party half a million pounds.
Lord Peter Cruddas donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party’s central office on 5 February 2021, only three days after he was introduced into the House of Lords where he now sits as a Conservative peer, the latest Electoral Commission records show.
Cruddas was nominated to become a member of the House of Lords by Boris Johnson in December 2020, despite objections from the House of Lords Appointments Commission, an independent group that vets nominations.
The Appointments Commission was unable to support the nomination owing to concerns over allegations made following an investigation by undercover reporters from the Sunday Times after he offered them access to the then Prime Minister David Cameron in exchange for £250,000 in donations.
Following the Sunday Times’s story, Cruddas stepped down as co-treasurer of the Conservative Party. He would go on to sue the Sunday Times for libel, initially winning £180,000 in damages. The Sunday Times then appealed the judgment, with judges in the court of appeal reducing the damages to £50,000, after they ruled that the paper’s central allegation of selling access to Cameron and other senior politicians were accurate.
The judges described Cruddas’s actions as “unacceptable, inappropriate and wrong”.
A letter from Boris Johnson to Lord Bew, the chair of the Appointments Commission, published by Downing Street in December along with the announcement of Cruddas’s peerage dismissed the Commission’s refusal to support the nomination.
He described the concerns as “historic” and assured Bew “that I see this case a clear and rare exception.” Johnson’s decision to overrule the Appointments Commission was the first time their advice had been overruled.
Johnson wrote: “The most serious accusations levelled at the time were found to be untrue and libellous. In order to avoid any ongoing concern, Mr Cruddas resigned from his post, and offered an apology for any impression of impropriety, and reflecting his particular concern for integrity in public life.
“An internal Conservative Party investigation subsequently found that there had been no intentional wrongdoing on Mr Cruddas’ part.”
Cruddas, a British businessman and philanthropist, donated a further £10,000 to the local Conservative association of Nickie Aitken, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, a constituency which has voted for the Conservatives since its creation in 1950. He has given more than £3 million to the Conservatives since 2009.
Cruddas also gave £10,000 to Conservative Voice, which describes itself as “an exciting and dynamic group set up to unite all generations of the centre-Right of the party […] a place for the grassroots to make themselves heard”.
The Conservative Party pocketed nearly £30,000 from companies that were no longer trading at the time the donations were made, an analysis of Electoral Commission records and Companies House data by Insider has found.
Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, UK political parties can only receive donations from actively trading companies and they are obliged to carry out permissibility checks on all donations from companies.
However, Insider’s investigation has found four donations from three companies that official records show were either dissolved or in the process of dissolution, with two of the donations received by currently serving government ministers.
Following Insider’s findings, the opposition Labour party called for an official investigation into the donations.
Anneliese Dodds MP, Chair of the Labour Party, told Insider: “This just doesn’t pass the smell test. The Conservatives need to explain why it seems they pocketed tens of thousands of pounds from companies that only existed on paper.
“The rules are clear: political parties must check that companies making donations are carrying on business in the UK. The Electoral Commission must launch an urgent investigation to find out what’s happened here – and any breaches of the law should be punished fully.”
Two donations received by a government minister
The first donation identified by Insider was to Wendy Morton, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Aldridge-Brownhills, and a junior minister in the Foreign Office, from a company called Unionist Buildings.
Companies House records show that Unionist Buildings was struck off the register on 17 January 2017, following an application, filed on 21 October 2016, by its directors.
However, Electoral Commission records show Morton’s local association received £6,000 from Unionist Buildings on 2 June 2017, less than a week before the 2017 general election. The donation was accepted on 5 June 2017.
Nearly three years after Unionist Buildings was struck off the register, Morton declared a further £4,000 received by her local Conservative association from Unionist Buildings and registered on 9 January 2020. Her entry also contains the £6,000 donation from 2017.
At the time Morton received the £4,000 donation in January 2020, she was a junior minister in the Ministry of Justice.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Unionist Buildings, who did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. Morton did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication either.
Donations were received from dissolved companies
Another donation was received from a company whose sole director was Conservative minister Charlotte Vere.
Vere is a Conservative life peer and a junior minister in the Department for Transport.
Companies House records for the firm Conservatives In, established to support the Remain vote in the 2016 Brexit Referendum, show it was struck off the register on 2 May 2017 following an application, filed on 3 February 2017, by Vere, the company’s sole director from June 2016 onwards.
On the application which Vere signed on 10 January 2017, she declared that “none of the circumstances described in section 1004 or 1005 of the Companies Act 2006 […] exists in relation to the company”.
Section 1004 of the Companies Act 2006 states that a company may not apply to be struck off if it has, “at any time in the previous three months […] traded or otherwise carried on business”.
But Electoral Commission records show that less than three months prior to this, Conservatives In gave £9,754.98 to the Conservative Party’s central office. The donation was made on 22 December 2016, the day after Vere was appointed a government whip in the House of Lords.
Vere’s entry on the register of ministers’ interests in November 2019 disclosed that her husband, Mike Chattey, is the head of fundraising at the Conservative Party. He has held the position since 2009.
Baroness Vere did not respond to a request for comment.
A company listed as a donor denies knowledge of donation
Companies House records for the firm Stridewell Estates show it was also struck off the register in November 2016, following an application for striking off made in August 2016.
A spokesperson for Stridewell Estates told Insider that the entry on the Electoral Commission’s website “must be a mistake.” She said “no payments were made from this company after it was dissolved. It is very possible that the company that donated has been recorded incorrectly.”
The spokesperson was unable to provide further details by the time of publication.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Stridewell Estates.
“This just doesn’t pass the smell test”
Insider referred all of these donations to the Conservative Party. A spokesperson for the party said: “Donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission and are published by them.”
The party did not seek to claim that any of the donations did not occur.
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “Political parties can only accept donations over £500 from permissible sources. This includes companies who are registered and incorporated in the UK, and who carry on business at the time they make donations.
“We carry out our own permissibility checks on donors, though the legal responsibility lies with the parties to ensure that they only accept money from legal sources. Should there be evidence that the rules have been broken, we would consider it in line with our Enforcement Policy.”
Campaigners say there needs to be a stronger set of regulatory requirements for parties to ensure that they are receiving donations from permissible sources.
Susan Hawley, executive director at Spotlight on Corruption, told Insider: “It is high time that political parties be placed under a proper legal obligation to do thorough background checks on the origins of donations and the Electoral Commission be given robust powers to penalise them when they fail to do so.
“The public need to have confidence that electoral finance is squeaky clean and there aren’t any loopholes that would allow illegal or foreign donations which might skew our electoral process.”
Companies including Toyota, JetBlue, and Cigna are still donating thousands of dollars to the lawmakers who voted against Joe Biden’s certification as president.
After a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 to try and prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s win, many top US companies scrambled to cut ties with the 147 GOP lawmakers who voted against the results.
A further group of companies said they would review their contribution policies or would take the January 6 events into account when awarding funding.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, founder of Yale’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute, told Axios in March the companies that halted political donations are unlikely to lift this ban any time soon. However, recent Federal Election Commission filings show that some companies are still giving to these lawmakers.
Color of Change, which says it is America’s largest racial justice organization and has more than 7 million members, is urging these companies to halt the donations.
Jade Ogunnaike, senior campaign director at Color of Change, told Insider that Trump’s presidency “undermined faith in our democracy.”
She said lawmakers including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who voted against Biden’s certification, “would have been very happy to do anything possible that they could to ensure that Trump remained in the office.”
“You can’t forget that these are not congresspeople that we can trust,” Ogunnaike added.
“It’s incredibly important that corporations understand that and refuse to back people who were supporting violence in the transfer of power,” she said.
The vast majority of corporations who pledged to stop funding these GOP lawmakers have stayed true to their word – but some companies who made vaguer promises about assessing PAC criteria have restarted donations, while others gave money instead to various Republican committees that, in turn, fund these lawmakers.
Here are the companies that have still been funding these 147 objectors, according to Federal Election Commission data up to March 31.
Toyota’s corporate PAC has given to 40 of the lawmakers who voted against Biden’s certification, Popular Information reported, with the donations totalling $62,000. This includes $5,000 to Michigan Rep. Jack Bergman and $3,500 to Arizona Rep. David Schweikert.
The automaker had previously told Automotive News it was assessing its PAC criteria following the Capitol siege.
“Toyota supports candidates based on their position on issues that are important to the auto industry and the company,” a Toyota spokesperson told Insider.
“We do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification,” the spokesperson said. “Based on our thorough review, we decided against giving to some members who, through their statements and actions, undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions.”
Health insurer Cigna said in January it would pause contributions to lawmakers “who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered a peaceful transition of power,” but added that this group doesn’t necessarily include all 147 GOP objectors.
The company gave money to at least six of the lawmakers who voted against Biden’s certification, Forbes reported. This included $1,000 to Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, $1,500 to South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice, and $2,500 to Pennsylvania Rep. John Joyce.
“In January, we disqualified certain elected officials from CignaPAC support based on alignment with our company values,” Cigna told Insider in a statement.
“Our new standard applies to those who incited violence or actively sought to obstruct the peaceful transition of power through words and other efforts. Congressional votes are, by definition, part of the peaceful transition of power outlined by law, and therefore, we believe are not the appropriate indicator for the application of our policy.”
Cigna added that its PAC remains nonpartisan and “focused on the common concerns of the employees who fund it.”
Popular Information reported that Koch Industries gave a total of $17,500 to six lawmakers who voted against Biden’s certification, including North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson and Kansas Rep. Ron Estes.
This came after the Koch political network, which is also controlled by billionaire businessman Charles Koch, told Politico that “lawmakers’ actions leading up to and during last week’s insurrection will weigh heavyin our evaluation of future support.”
The chemical-manufacturing company did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
During this time period, it was the third-biggest PAC donor to the lawmakers who later voted against Biden’s certification, giving $1.27 million to these lawmakers out of the total $13.7 million it spent on political contributions, data from political-transparency site Open Secrets shows.
The New York Times reported that in the first quarter of 2021 the National Association of Realtors gave to multiple objectors, including $1,000 each Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt and California Rep. Ken Calvert.
The association, which told Insider that it had 1.4 million members, said it put a temporary pause on all federal political disbursements in place after the siege, but had lifted it.
“This decision will ensure we continue to engage with political candidates in an effort to support America’s homeowners and our nation’s real estate industry,” it said, adding that its PAC was bipartisan.
JetBlue told Insider that it temporarily paused its donations to get feedback from PAC contributors. Since then, its PAC has donated $1,000 to New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who voted against Biden’s certification.
“We take a bipartisan approach, supporting both Republicans and Democrats,” a spokesperson for JetBlue said, adding that its PAC had donated to two further Republican candidates and four Democratic ones since resuming contributions, none of whom had voted to challenge the election results.
“By having relationships with candidates on both sides of the aisle, we can also maintain a voice in the room on issues that are important to our crewmembers,” the spokesperson said. “We’ll continue to have an open dialogue with PAC contributors to understand how and where their contributions should be directed.”
Jones Walker, one of the US’ largest law firms, donated $1,000 to Illinois Rep. Mike Bost, Popular Information first reported.
The New Orleans-based company didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Cubic Corporation, LKQ Corporation, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation
Forbes also reported that defense contractor Cubic Corporation gave to at least eight lawmakers who refused to certify, auto-parts distributor LKQ Corporation to at least eight, and aerospace company Sierra Nevada Corporation to least seven.
Cubic declined to comment, while LKQ Corporation and the Sierra Nevada Corporation did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Some PACs, meanwhile, haven’t given directly to the 147 objectors — but are members of trade associations that themselves gave to these lawmakers, Popular Information said.
The American Financial Services Association, for example, counts General Motors and Wells Fargo among its members. Both said they would pause all political donations, and have kept true to their word — but AFSA donated $1,000 to South Carolina Rep. William Timmons in February, FEC filings show. ASFA’s PAC donates heavily in favor of Republicans, data from Open Secrets shows.
Another way corporate PACs have been indirectly funding the lawmakers who voted against Biden’s certification is through donations to committees such as the National Republican Senatorial Committee (RNSC).
Popular Information reported that Pfizer donated $15,000 to the NRSC in February, which is run by Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who objected to the election results. These funds will also benefit the seven other GOP senators who voted against Biden’s certification, the publication reported.
Cigna also donated $15,000 to the NRSC, alongside a further $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).
Intel also gave $15,000 to the NRCC after it had said it would stop donations to the 147 objectors.
The tech company told Insider that its policy of halting direct contributions to members of Congress who voted against certificating the Electoral College results still applied.
It said that it divides its political contributions evenly among Republicans and Democrats, including individual candidates, campaign committees, and governors associations, and added that it continuously evaluates its contributions.
Communications giant AT&T had also said in January that it would halt contributions to the lawmakers who voted against Biden’s certification, but it donated $5,000 to the House Conservatives Fund in February, which fundraises for the Republican Study Committee, itself made up mainly of GOP objectors.
AT&T told Popular Information that the House Conservative Fund had “assured” them that none of this money would go to support the re-election of the 147 objectors.
Insider has contacted Pfizer and AT&T for comment.
Color of Change wants these companies to address their political contributions
“At Color of Change we’re not supporting a boycott [of these companies] necessarily,” Ogunnaike told Insider. Instead, the organization is asking people to design a petition asking that these companies stop funding these lawmakers.
She added she also recommended that customers contact these companies and share their point of view.
“What we see is that corporations are very, very reactive to the concerns of consumers,” she said. “We’ve seen corporations change their minds on an important issue within moments because consumers reached.”
The money was sent as part of a crowdfunding effort to help the Proud Boys pay for medical expenses after four people were stabbed in Washington DC in December 2020 during a confrontation with Black Lives Matter protesters (officials did not comment on which group the injured individuals belonged to at the time).
The fundraiser was set up on the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo on December 17, five days after the incident.
The crowdfunding effort raised a total of $106,107 – 80% of which came from American Asians and the broader Chinese diaspora, according to USA Today, which obtained data from the whistleblower site Distributed Denial of Secrets.
The investigation tracked some donations to addresses in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Several donors who spoke to USA Today said they had sent money to the Proud Boys because they supported Former President Donald Trump, and felt that America was under attack from communism, a claim often touted by right-wing commentators, including conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
The donors also told the paper they felt the Proud Boys were protecting the country from antifa and the Black Lives Matter protesters.
“You have to understand how we feel – we came from communist China and we managed to come here and we appreciate it here so much,” said Rebecca Kwan, who donated $500, USA Today reported. “The Proud Boys are for Trump, and they are fighting antifa, and can you see anything good that antics did except destroy department stores and small businesses?”
Another donor, Donald Wang from New York, who donated $50 to the organization, told USA Today: “The Proud Boys are protecting the innocent people. A lot of people in my community support them.”
The chairman of the far-right organization, Enrique Tarrio, said in a statement to USA Today: “I am happy that Asians support the Proud Boys because of the continuous hate and the relentless assault they get from BLM supporters. So to the Asian community, I’d like to say Thank You.”
The FBI described the Proud Boys as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.” The agency’s director, Christopher Wray, said in a testimony before Congress last year he wished the FBI had been better able to penetrate the group ahead of the riot.
According to an NBC News poll from November, 63 percent of Asian Americans across the country voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
However, 31 percent still voted for Trump despite the fact the former president frequently used xenophobic and discriminatory language while referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the terms “kung flu” and “China virus.”
In the last few months, anti-Asian sentiment across the country has also contributed to a rise in xenophobic hate crimes.
Donations to the 10 lawmakers in the first three months of 2021 totaled $6.4 million, per new filings from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), first reported by Bloomberg. The money has come from GOP donors, conservative PACs, and even some Democrat donors, such as entrepreneur Kimbal Musk, Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s brother.
Three of the lawmakers – Kinzinger, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, and Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio – had their biggest-ever quarters for political contributions, Bloomberg reported.
So far, 15 challengers have announced primary bids against the incumbents in the 2022 midterms, though one incumbent, Rep. John Katko, is currently unopposed. The challengers have collectively raised $1.9 million this year, Bloomberg reported.
Here’s how much the GOP lawmakers raised between January 1 and March 31, per the FEC:
Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyoming): $1.54 million
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Illinois): $1.15 million
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Washington): $744,750
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio): $616,524
Rep. Peter Meijer (Michigan): $519,741
Rep. John Katko (New York): $436,291
Rep. Tom Rice (South Carolina): $404,731
Rep. Fred Upton (Michigan): $360,392
Rep. David Valadao (California): $322,144
Rep. Dan Newhouse (Washington): $289,493
Cheney topped the list with $1.54 million in funding between January 1 and March 31, the FEC filings show. This includes $10,000 from Mitt Romney’s Believe in America PAC, and $5,600 from her father, former Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Financial-services firms and trade associations, as well as their employees, spent a record $2.9 billion on campaign donations and lobbying in the 2019-20 election cycle, according to a new report by Americans for Financial Reform (AFR).
Bloomberg LP, founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, spent the most cash, and Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat, received more money than any other current member of Congress, the report said.
The sector spent around 2.5 times more money on electing President Joe Biden than it did on reelecting former President Donald Trump, the data showed.
The total spend was around 50% more than the previous record, when the financial-services industry spent $2 billion during the 2015-16 election cycle.
The financial-services industry donated $1.96 billion to House, Senate, and presidential candidates seeking election in the 2019-20 election cycle, and spent $932.9 million on lobbying across 2019 and 2020, per the report.
AFR based its analysis on contributions reported by both financial-services companies and trade associations and individual employees between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020. CNBC first reported on its findings.
Bloomberg LP gave the most money
In total, nearly 600 financial-sector companies and trade associations spent at least $500,000 on contributions and lobbying across 2019 and 2020, per the report. It added that there were more than 2,000 registered lobbyists working across the sector.
These are the 20 companies and associations who spent the most, according to the AFR:
Bloomberg LP – $158.9 million
National Association of Realtors (NAR) – $154.3 million
Fahr LLC – $70.7 million
Citadel LLC – $69.3 million
Blackstone Group – $49.5 million
Charles Schwab & Co – $35.6 million
Susquehanna International Group – $30.7 million
American Bankers Association (ABA) – $26.6 million
Paloma Partners – $25.5 million
Bain Capital – $22.0 million
Renaissance Technologies – $21.3 million
Stephens Group – $18.4 million
Elliott Management – $17.0 million
Wells Fargo – $16.8 million
Intercontinental Exchange Inc – $16.2 million
Lone Pine Capital – $15.2 million
Ryan Specialty Group – $15.1 million
Euclidean Capital – $14.4 million
American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) – $13.9 million
Securities Industry & Financial Market Association (SIFMA) – $13.8 million
The financial-services sector gave $982.8 million in party-coded contributions across 2019 and 2020 through both individual employee donations and PACs, the report said. Of this, 47% went to Republicans and 53% went to Democrats.
Current congressional candidates received $311 million in contributions from the financial sector to their campaign committees and leadership PACs, according to the AFR.
The 10 current members of Congress who received the largest amounts were:
Wall Street “seems to have made a particular effort to preserve Republican control of the Senate to both lock in pro-industry measures passed during the Trump administration and to forestall reform under President Biden,” the AFR wrote in the report.
Despite almost equal support for Democratic and Republican candidates, the sector donated overwhelming towards Biden’s presidential campaign over Trump’s.
The finance, insurance, and real estate sector contributed $252.6 million towards Biden’s campaign and external groups supporting him – more than twice as much as the $103.3 million given to Trump, according to the AFR.
After a MAGA mob stormed the United States Capitol in January in an effort to overturn the 2020 election results, the corporate world quickly worked to distance itself from Donald Trump and other Republicans who had helped instigate the riot.
Companies, from Goldman Sachs to Walmart, suspended political donations. The Chamber of Commerce, typically a cash cow for the GOP, promised to withhold money from lawmakers who promoted Trump’s “Big Lie.” And, in perhaps the most personal blow to the former president, the PGA pulled its 2022 championship from Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey golf club. “The US business community has interests fully in alignment with the American public,” one professor in Yale’s management school told USA Today amid the exodus, “and not with Trump’s autocratic bigoted wing of the GOP.”
That was, in retrospect, a rather optimistic take on what was transpiring. But one can be forgiven for taking heart in the corporate retreat: Lawmakers obviously wouldn’t expel Sen. Josh Hawley, one of the lawmakers who helped spearhead the objection to the election results. Trump’s second impeachment trial was sure to end with another acquittal. But perhaps, at the very least, there’d be some financial consequences. The private sector would speak, and it would say: Get lost.
But the corporate pullback was never going to last, because it was never really about accountability. In the immediate aftermath of the deadly siege, it was a bad look to be associated with the politicians who egged on the pro-Trump rioters. But for some of corporate America, the commitment lasted only as long as the country’s political memory, which is to say, not very.
Just a PR move?
As Popular Information reported earlier this week, several corporations that had distanced themselves from politicians whose actions didn’t align with their “company values” had quickly – and quietly – reversed course. Intel donated to the National Republican Campaign Committee. AT&T and Cigna each contributed funds to organizations run by GOP objectors to Joe Biden’s victory.
That’s just three of five dozen corporations that vowed to pull political donations, either entirely or from Republicans alone. But, Bloomberg News reported recently, more are likely to follow in the coming months. While some objectors, including Hawley, will likely remain on a “no-fly list,” Bloomberg reported that the retreat was “never meant to be a shutdown of the Wall Street money machine.” Not every firm has reneged on its promise, but for many, the change wasn’t meant to be permanent.
“There was a feeling that companies need to take a stand, and that was probably met with a concern about the brand,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told Bloomberg. “If companies so quickly and easily backtrack on the PAC suspension, it will prove to be a PR move.”
If it does, the fact that it was such a seductive move is telling. American voices are so muted in the corridors of power that it is perhaps only natural to take heart in the notion that companies will speak for us. Corporations should be applauded for standing up for American values and following through, but that alone is not an effective mechanism of accountability, nor is it a reliable one. Bad politicians should be held accountable by the American people, and Americans should be empowered to do so.
Hope in a bill
There’s some hope for that in the For the People Act, which passed the House earlier this month. The bill, sponsored by Democrat John Sarbanes, would not only expand voting rights in America, safeguarding these rights against GOP suppression efforts that have recently found footing in Georgia, it would also significantly dilute the influence of big money in politics by strengthening the power of small donations. The bill ideally would make politicians more accountable to the people they represent as opposed to corporate and big dollar benefactors.
But without amending or abolishing the filibuster, the bill stands no chance of passing in the Senate. President Biden has recently thrown his support behind restoring the “talking filibuster,” which requires a senator to actually speak the whole time on the Senate floor and thus makes its use more difficult. Republicans, though, have suggested they’d be willing to do that to defeat the Democrats’ election bill. “There is no amount of time that I will not dedicate on the Senate floor to stopping the Democrats from passing this kind of radical legislation,” GOP Senator Tom Cotton told reporters recently.
Democrats must therefore be prepared to take even more aggressive action against the filibuster to pass the For the People Act and amplify Americans’ voices in the two venues they’re best heard: in the ballot box and in the campaign coffers. Accountability should not be dependent on the whims of big dollar donors or the demands of companies’ bottom lines.
People are calling for a boycott of Publix after the Wall Street Journal unmasked an heiress to the Southern grocery empire as the top donor to the Trump rally that led to the Capitol riots on January 6.
Julie Jenkins Fancelli, an heiress to the Publix founding family’s nearly $9 billion fortune, has previously donated millions to Republican causes and candidates. On January 30, the WSJ reported Fancelli as having contributed $300,000 out of the roughly $500,000 total raised for Trump’s now-infamous “Stop the Steal” rally.
Publix has a dedicated fanbase, but Fancelli’s contribution to the rally was the last straw for many loyal customers, The Guardian reported Monday. On Monday, the hashtag #BoycottPublix was trending on Twitter, with many users expressing outrage and claiming betrayal over Fancelli’s donation.
Fancelli is still president of the George Jenkins Foundation, Inc., Publix founder George Jenkins’s charity, which is not affiliated with the grocery chain. Since posting the statement on January 30, the Publix Twitter account – which previously posted around once a day – has been uncharacteristically silent.
This isn’t the first time Publix has courted controversy over its political donations. It came under fire after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis awarded the chain an exclusive vaccine distribution contract. This followed the Publix PAC donating $100,000 donation to his campaign – a spokeswoman for DeSantis said any implication that the contract was a reward for the donation was “baseless and ridiculous,” per the Lakeland Ledger.
Leaders from predominantly Black communities throughout the state also criticized the contract, saying it deprived many Black Floridians of the chance to get vaccinated.