HARRISBURG – The eight Pennsylvania Republican members of Congress who objected to the state’s electoral votes earlier this month week took more than $350,000 in 2019-2020 from the political action committees of 24 major companies that have announced they won’t donate to lawmakers who challenged the election results, a review of Federal Election Commission data shows.
Campaign experts said time will tell whether the moves by those companies will translate into lasting accountability or whether they are short-term stances.
Mike Mikus, a Pittsburgh-based consultant who works with Democrats, said progressive groups are going monitor the actions of these companies and will call them out if they reverse course.
“If Republicans think this is going to go away anytime soon, they’re mistaken,” he said. The attack on the Capitol will spur investigations and hearings that will keep the issue in the public eye for months, at least, he said.
“This is the most jarring moment in our country since 9/11,” Mikus said. “I think this is burned into people’s memories. It’s bad,” he said.
The PACs of major companies across the country have announced that they are pausing all donations temporarily, or halting donations specifically to campaigns of Republicans who had a hand in questioning the election results and fueling the anger that led to the mob attack at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.
Eight of Pennsylvania’s nine Republican members of Congress — Rep. John Joyce, Rep. Fred Keller, Rep. Mike Kelly, Rep. Dan Meuser, Rep. Scott Perry, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler and Rep. Glenn Thompson — challenged the election result.
Kelly, R-16, Butler, who represents Mercer County in the House of Representatives, received the most money, $82,200, from the companies that have pledged donation boycotts.
Perry, R-10, is a distant second, with $50,500. He represents all of Dauphin County and parts of Cumberland and York counties.
Combined, those members of Congress received $361,950 from two dozen political action committees that have announced they won’t donate to Republicans involved in questioning the election results. Those PACs include committees tied to companies like Comcast, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Koch Industries and Walmart.
Christopher Nicholas, a Harrisburg-based consultant who works with Republican candidates, said that since Democrats now control both chambers of Congress and the White House, it would be expected that donors would be shifting their dollars from Republicans toward Democrats even if there hadn’t been the unprecedented mob attack at the U.S. Capitol to spur them to do so.
In addition, the first quarter of the fund-raising cycle is typically the slowest period for donations, he said. Eventually, lobbyists for these companies are likely going to want to be able to attend fund-raising events to meet face-to-face with these members of Congress, and that could prompt internal discussions about how long to continue these donation boycotts, he said.
“We’ll see how it shakes out in the second and third quarters” of the fund-raising cycle, he said.
David N. Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association is a board member of BIPAC, the Business and Industry Political Action Committee. That group doesn’t directly fund candidates but instead helps businesses figure out how to inform their employees about political issues and get them engaged in voting.
“The business community needs to show leadership,” Taylor said. “There is a role for civic leadership,” he said.
If executives in a company think actions leading up to the mob attack justify withholding donations “that’s within their rights,” Taylor said. However, he added that he thinks it’s been unfair “to conflate” the actions by the Pennsylvania Republican members of Congress to object to the election results with the actions of the “kooks” who broke into the Capitol building and clashed with police.
Taylor said the Supreme Court’s ruling and some of the moves by the Department of State and county election offices do raise questions.
Election officials, including Republicans in states won by President-elect Joe Biden, have ratified the election results and certified Biden’s victory. Federal judges, including those appointed by President Donald Trump and other Republican presidents, have consistently ruled against claims of fraud by the president and his supporters in court.
Former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, said the U.S. Department of Justice investigated voting fraud claims by the Trump campaign and found no evidence of fraud sufficient to justify overturning the election.
Asked to respond to donation boycotts from the corporate PACs, Michael Plummer, a spokesman for Keller, said in an email: “Americans have a First Amendment right to support the candidate they choose, which is what makes this country so great.”
Follow the money
The potential impact of corporate donors’ decision to end donations to Congress members, including eight from Pennsylvania, who objected to the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6:
• Mike Kelly — $82,200 (Largest donors: AT&T, Comcast and Koch Industries, $10,000 each)
• Dan Meuser — $33,500 (Largest donor: Comcast, $15,000)
• Lloyd Smucker — $49,000 (Largest donors: Comcast and Exelon, $10,000 each)
• John Joyce — $44,250 (Largest donors: Koch Industries and Comcast, $10,000 each)
• Guy Reschenthaler — $44,000 (Largest donors: Koch Industries and Comcast, $10,000)
• Fred Keller — $22,500 (Largest donor: Comcast, $12,500)
• Scott Perry — $50,500 (Largest donor: Koch Industries, $15,000)
• Glenn Thompson — $36,000 (Largest donors: Koch Industries and Comcast, $10,000 each)
Totals include donations from: AT&T, Amazon, American Express, Best Buy, Blue Cross, CISCO, Comcast, Dow, Exelon, GE, Goldman Sachs, Hallmark, Intel, Koch Industries, Kraft Heinz, Marriott, Massmutual, Mastercard, Morgan Stanley, NASDAQ, NIKE, State Street, Verizon, Walmart and Walt Disney.