In the days immediately following the failed insurrection on Jan. 6, several high-profile corporations publicly halted PAC (political action committee) donations to the 147 Republican members of Congress who objected to the 2020 election results. However, the show of corporate social responsibility was slim to begin with and it quickly faded, raising the question of whether it had any impact at all.
Corporations react to the failed insurrection, but is anybody listening?
Judging from the behavior of several of those 147 members of Congress, corporate campaign dollars have less impact than one might assume.
In recent days much of the attention has focused on the freshman Republican from Georgia’s 14th Congressional district, Marjorie Taylor Greene. Rep. Greene won office last November as an open advocate of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a baseless claim that a ring of satanic pedophiles is secretly running the government and private industries such as entertainment. Some observers have described QAnon as a violent right-wing cult that closely echoes the vitriolic smears against Jews leading up to the Holocaust.
Several corporations did cut off funding to Rep. Greene as part of the group of 147 Electoral objectors. Nevertheless, Greene has doubled down on her reputation, which in the past included circulating anti-Semitic tropes and calling repeatedly for executing prominent Democrats.
Last week Greene reportedly “berated and threatened” a fellow U.S. Congresswoman outside of her office. Rather than demonstrating disapproval, Republican leadership has allowed her to sit on three committees. Her assignments include the Education Committee, even though she has gone on record questioning the reality of school shootings and once verbally harassed Parkland survivor David Hogg on the street.
Clearly, the loss of some campaign dollars did not have an impact on Greene’s behavior, and it did not dissuade other House Republicans from demonstrating support for her.
Several other Republican legislators in the group of 147 have received particular attention for their roles in the failed insurrection, yet none has been formally censured or admonished by Republican leadership in the House or Senate.
All in all, Republican leadership appears to be behaving as if the whole thing will blow over long before the next election cycle gets under way.
Perhaps corporate dollars talk after all — or not
After House Republicans failed to take action, Democratic members of Congress announced that they would step in and strip Ms. Greene of her committee assignments.
That finally seemed to spark a reaction, at least in the Senate. In a statement provided to ABC News on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) said, "Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country.”
Though he did not mention Greene by name, Sen. McConnell went on to cite a list of conspiracy theories associated with Greene. “This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party," he concluded.
That forceful statement could indicate that corporate influence is having at least some impact on the Republican Party at large, if not on individual members of Congress.
Another sign that corporate dollars count
On the other hand, McConnell’s statement could merely indicate a damage control strategy in which Republican leadership throws the most overtly offensive Republican member of Congress under the bus, leaving 146 others untouched.
That may be so, but there is another sign that Republicans are taking the withdrawal of corporate PAC dollars seriously. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Republican aides have been discussing the possibility of banning corporate lobbyists from their offices, if the lobbyists' associated PACs were on record halting donations to the group of 147.
Rachel Maddow of MSNBC was among those picking up on the story. “Instead of looking for ways to get back into corporate donors' good graces, Republicans are making threats. If businesses want to be heard in these lawmakers' offices, they better be prepared to pay for the privilege,” Maddow observed.
When you’ve lost Home Depot…
That threatening posture would be unnecessary if Republican leadership was confident about the party’s ability to sweep its connection to the failed insurrection under the rug, and there are still other signs that the corporate reaction is only just beginning to heat up.
Home Depot's story is one significant sign of more damage to come, due to its co-founders’ history of support for Republican candidates and conservative causes.
Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone went on record just days after the failed insurrection. In an interview with CNBC, Langone said he felt “betrayed” by Donald Trump. He also affirmed that incoming President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and pledged to “make Joe Biden the most successful president in the history of the country."
Whether or not that means Home Depot will withdraw PAC support from Republican office holders linked to the failed insurrection remains to be seen, but it is possible.
Independent journalist Judd Legum of Popular Information has been tracking the flow of corporate PAC dollars, and he initially listed Home Depot as noncommittal.
More recently, though, Home Depot indicated a stronger stance. On Jan. 31, Legum tweeted the contents of an official statement from the company’s communications office, in which it pledged to “take time to carefully review and reevaluate each of the members who voted to the election results before considering further contributions to them.”
That may sound like weak tea, but with each passing day, more damning evidence emerges that the events of Jan. 6 were planned and carried out by former President Trump and his allies, with the support and participation of Republican members of Congress. More evidence is all but certain to come to light during Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.
Corporate leaders who would prefer to take a stronger stand against white supremacy, anti-Semitism, armed insurrection, sedition and corruption will have every reason to do so in the days and weeks ahead.
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Image credit: Ian Hutchinson/Unsplash
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.