Jan. 6th Ripples: Toyota

Corporate contributions to GOP lawmakers continue to draw scrutiny. On July 8th, Toyota pledged to stop donations to Republican politicians who voted against certifying the 2020 election. This reverses the company’s previous course, in which it was the largest corporate donor giving directly to those politicians’ campaigns. 

The move followed more than a week of intense public pressure after a viral Axios story reported that Toyota’s  PAC donated over twice as much money to election-objectors than the runner up company

It also coincided with a new ad by the Lincoln Project attacking Toyota over donations to the so-called “Sedition Caucus” as well as widespread calls to boycott the company.

The other corporations donating to election-objectors include Boeing, CIGNA, AT&T, Comcast, and Pfizer, and Lockheed Martin. The total amount of corporate money flowing to objectors is nearly $5M and the top recipient so far has been House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. 

After January 6th and preceding his company’s decision to cut off funds to election objectors, Microsoft CEO Brad Smith explained the incentives governing corporate PACs as follows: 

“Politicians in the United States have events, they have weekend retreats, you have to write a check and then you’re invited and participate… [T]he reason you go is because the PAC writes a check.” 

This is as clear an explanation as you’ll find of the incentives governing corporate political donations. As such, it explains why Toyota reversed course: the only forces more powerful than political access are customer satisfaction and brand reputation.

As of writing, Lockheed Martin is now the top direct donor to individual members of the Sedition Caucus. Several companies have donated more to the NRSC and NRCC, which also fund members of the Caucus. They’re detailed in the full report, by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which is linked in the Axios article above, as well as here.


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