The swift reaction many companies have shown as a result of last week’s violence during the U.S. Capitol riots is almost as breathtaking as the silence they exhibited in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6. Suddenly, more companies are demanding refunds on their political contributions made to the likes of Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley. At first, this sounds like an honorable stance, but then again, politicians like Hawley made their views clear long before they took the lead in challenging the results of the November presidential election.
Some of the business community’s ties to last week's violence isn't surprising. For example, independent journalist Emily Atkin profiled some of the right-wing extremist elements working within the oil and gas sector which in turn had an active presence in D.C. last week. And while more evidence suggests the financial sector’s wallets opened wider for Democrats than Republicans during the most recent election cycle, it turns out plenty of money from bankers went to politicians who supported overturning the Nov. 3 presidential results.
Now we’re seeing more companies duck for cover as it turns out they, or their employees, supported various candidates reportedly linked to the Capitol riots or the QAnon movement. Even if those funds were sent unwittingly, the actions of some representatives such as Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who live-tweeted the location of the Speaker of the House during the riots, finally crossed the line. Over the past few days, many of these companies have said they will halt their political spending or completely shut down their campaign funds or PACs (political action committees).
But the reckoning has gone beyond the banks, energy companies, tech firms and retailers. It turns out some professional sports team owners sent checks to dodgy politicians as well, including those whose actions have direct ties to the Capitol riots.
For example, Charles Johnson, the largest shareholder of the San Francisco Giants, has donated money to Boebert. Arizona Diamondbacks owner Earl “Ken” Kendrick has also reportedly given financial support to Boebert’s campaign. In light of those revelations, Major League Baseball (MLB) has announced it will join the roster of businesses pulling the plug on political donations after last week’s violence in D.C.
Finding itself in the middle of controversy is hardly new for the MLB. During the 2018 midterm elections, the baseball league’s political action committee donated to Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign — only to ask for the money back when she made off-color comments about race and lynching.
“Companies that are committed to ideals of inclusion don’t throw $5,000 at a senator who makes references to lynchings in a state with a wretched history of them while opposing a candidate who is Black," wrote sportswriter Jeff Passan at the time. “Nothing can wash away the stain of the money given to Hyde-Smith.”
Two years are a long time in politics — and in business. American voters have shown over the last several decades that they are willing to forgive, forget, or do both at the same time. But with their brand reputations on the line, companies that seek to ensure they will thrive in the long term are now evaluating how to best wield their pocketbooks. They could consider two stakeholders who could benefit from money that once went to political contributions and lobbying: their employees and local communities.
Image credit: Andy Feliciotti/Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.