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Tina Casey headshot

Greetings from the Corporate Defenders of the U.S. Capitol and Democracy

By Tina Casey
U.S. Capitol

In the weeks leading up to the failed insurrection on Jan. 6, many U.S. business leaders refrained from calling out President Donald Trump for lying about the results of the 2020 election. However, inciting a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol building with murderous intent was the last straw. Several top U.S. companies have already taken steps to hold Trump and his supporters to account for their actions. Nevertheless, the danger is still ongoing, and a true reckoning will not occur until the trickle of corporate censure turns into an irresistible torrent of unequivocal condemnation.

Top U.S. greeting card company has had it with your insurrection

In the days leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz emerged as leading figures among a group of 147 Republican members of Congress who pledged to object to the Electoral College vote. Though widely viewed as a toothless stunt, together they provided Trump with a false sheen of constitutional legitimacy and abetted his efforts to remain in office by any means necessary.

Among the news organizations tracking the issue, the newsletter Popular Information compiled a list of corporations that have pledged to stop donating to those 147 Republican officials, either temporarily or forever.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association PAC is one representative example. "In light of this week’s violent, shocking assault on the United States Capitol, and the votes of some members of Congress to subvert the results of November’s election by challenging Electoral College results, BCBSA will suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy,” the group told Popular Information’s Judd Legum.

Similarly, Marriott International stated: “We have taken the destructive events at the Capitol to undermine a legitimate and fair election into consideration and will be pausing political giving from our Political Action Committee to those who voted against certification of the election.”

Others taking up the same position include American Express, Commerce Bancshares (the holding company for Commerce Bank), Dow, Inc., Boston Scientific, Citibank, 3M, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, Charles Schwab and Microsoft.

Popular Information also highlighted Hallmark for going above and beyond. Instead of simply suspending future donations, Hallmark stated that it will demand the refund of a prior $3,000 donation to Sen. Hawley. The company will demand an additional $5,000 back from newly elected Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, who also objected to the Electoral College vote before the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

“Hallmark believes the peaceful transition of power is part of the bedrock of our democratic system, and we abhor violence of any kind. The recent actions of Senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall do not reflect our company’s values. As a result, HALLPAC requested Sens. Hawley and Marshall to return all HALLPAC campaign contributions,” Hallmark told Popular Information.

This trickle really could turn into a flood

Goldman Sachs and Facebook are among a dozen or so other corporations that expressed a middle ground to Popular Information. They condemned the violence but suspended donations to both the Republican and Democratic parties, or simply pledged to study the matter further.

As more evidence emerges about the extent of the planning and premeditation involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection and attack on the U.S. Capitol, Goldman Sachs and Facebook may be forced to recalibrate their positions.

That could happen sooner rather than later, partly due to pressure from employees.

Earlier on Monday, for example, Popular Information reported that AT&T was still studying the issue. By Monday afternoon, Reuters reported a statement from AT&T, in which the company wrote that it decided on more forceful action after a phone meeting held by employees on its PAC board.

AT&T will suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes last week,” the company told Reuters.

After the attack on the U.S. Capitol, there's the brand reputation factor

The suspension of financial support from campaign donors is just one part of a larger bottom-line puzzle emerging from the wreckage of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

News and entertainment organizations that have enabled media personalities to support Trump’s lies suddenly appear concerned about their legal exposure and the potential loss of advertising dollars.

That appears to be the case with Westwood One, which has 8,000 broadcast radio affiliates in its stable along with 416 radio stations that it owns and operates through its Cumulus branch.

Cumulus is known for cultivating right wing on-air personalities, fostering a media environment that supported President Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. On Monday, the website Inside Music Media reported that Cumulus issued a blanket warning that it would fire any host who continued to support Trump’s lies about the election.

The story was soon picked up by other leading news outlets including the Washington Post, which wrote that Cumulus took action to right its ship on Jan. 6, even as the attack on the Capitol building was under way.

The New England news organization GoLocalProv posted part of the Cumulus memo signed by EVP Brian Phillips, who emphasized that the ban includes any coded references that suggest support for President Trump's claims.

"There will be no dog-whistle talk about 'stolen elections,' 'civil wars' or any other language that infers violent public disobedience is warranted, ever. Through all of our communication channels, including social, we will work to urge restoration of PEACE AND ORDER,” Phillips wrote.

That forceful directive seems to have sparked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg into taking the long overdue step of removing “Stop the Steal” content from his platform, though it may be too late to stave off a fresh wave of advertiser boycotts.

Cumulus most likely had its advertisers in mind, too, but there may also be larger forces at work. On its website, Westwood One lists the NFL, the NHL, the NCAA, the Olympics and the Masters golf tournament as its brand partners.

That entire group has remained eerily silent so far, but in a hint of things to come the Professional Golfer’s Association board of directors voted to pull the 2022 PGA Championship out of its contract to play at a Trump golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

We’re not out of the woods yet

All in all, the corporate response seems to be building toward a massive repudiation of Trump and his supporters, but too slowly.

The FBI has issued warning of more violence in the days and weeks ahead, and in all 50 states in addition to Washington, D.C.

More business leaders need to act now, and act forcefully, to hold Trump and his allies to account for their actions by any means necessary, whether that means withholding financial support from politicians or firing any employee or executive who threatens the peace and security of the nation.

Image credit: DHS/Wiki Commons

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey