Pro-Trump protesters storm into the US Capitol during clashes with police in Washington, the US, January 6 2021. Picture: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON
Pro-Trump protesters storm into the US Capitol during clashes with police in Washington, the US, January 6 2021. Picture: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON

Washington  — Republicans in the US Congress faced growing blowback on Monday from businesses that said they would cut off campaign contributions to those who voted last week to challenge president-elect Joe Biden's victory.

The announcements by Dow, AT&T, American Express, Airbnb, Best Buy and Mastercard, among others, threaten to throttle fundraising resources for Republicans who will soon be out of power in the White House and both chambers of Congress. AT&T, for example, is among the biggest corporate donors in Washington.

Greeting-card giant Hallmark said it had asked senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall to return its contributions. Representatives for the two Republicans, who both objected to Biden's certification, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The announcements are a sign that some corporate donors, which typically spread their money widely around Capitol Hill, are reassessing their strategy after supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol last week in an effort to prevent Congress from formalising Biden's victory.

It is unclear whether their decisions will have a lasting impact. Fundraising activity is now at a post-election lull in Washington, giving businesses and trade groups some time to figure out their approach.

Few companies have gone as far as Dow, which said it would withhold donations for the Republican legislators' entire terms in office  up to six years for those in the Senate. Others said they would withhold donations temporarily, or suspend giving to Republicans and Democrats alike.

At least five people died in last week's attack, which also forced lawmakers into hiding for several hours.

When they reconvened, 147 Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to challenge Biden's victory in Pennsylvania or Arizona, even though both states already formally certified the results and election officials say there were no significant problems with the vote.

Those voting yes included the top two House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, and senator Rick Scott, who as incoming head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee will head up efforts to win back the Senate in the 2022 elections. All of their jobs require extensive fundraising. McCarthy and Scalise's offices did not respond to a request for comment. Spokespeople for Scott declined to comment.

The sheer extent of the Republican opposition will make it difficult for businesses to simply cut off those who voted against certifying Biden's victory, said a senior Republican business strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity. Roughly two-thirds of all House Republicans, including seasoned legislators and vocal Trump partisans, supported the challenge.

Business groups will be watching closely over the coming weeks to see whether those Republicans make gestures to re-establish a sense of normalcy, such as attending Biden's inauguration, the strategist said.

“Each of those people are going to be scrutinised,” the strategist said. “Are they all going into the bucket of 'no contributions'? I would be shocked if they all get put in.”

A growing list of companies, including Ford Motor, Microsoft, Alphabet's Google, Facebook, Smithfield Foods, BlackRock and Union Pacific said they would temporarily suspend donations to Democrats and Republicans alike.

Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase plan to pause all political contributions for the time being and may ultimately blacklist Republican who voted against certifying Biden's win, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Trade associations, among the biggest corporate donors in Washington, are moving more slowly.

The National Association of Beer Wholesalers and the American Bankers Association said they would reassess their contribution strategy. Other top donors, including the National Association of Homebuilders and the National Association of Realtors, said they have yet to make a decision.

Several analysts said the boycott may not be permanent, as the need for access on Capitol Hill might ultimately outweigh the risk of being seen as an underwriter of those who weaken US democracy.

“It’s very easy to suspend campaign contributions two months after an election. The question is whether these policies will remain in effect,” said Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily.

Reuters

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