Business Management & Leadership

Tech giants join companies in accounting for political expenses

Alfred Gescheidt / Getty Images

The American flag superimposed on a stack of US dollar banknotes.

Alfred Gescheidt / Getty Images

Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have joined a growing list of big banks and other big corporations who are shutting down their political spending following the violent attack on the US Capitol last week.

One after the other, the reactions of the companies have increased. Some companies have suspended donations to lawmakers protesting against the confirmation of the presidential election. Many stopped all political donations for a few months. Some have gone so far as to support the removal of the president.

“The outgoing president has incited violence to keep power and any elected leader who defends him is breaking his constitutional oath and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy,” said Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers , and urged Vice President Pence to reconsider, citing the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a President deemed incapacitated.

Money-in-politics groups have embraced this unusually widespread – and self-initiated – corporate accounting through their own role in contributing to the current political state of the nation.

“You just can’t really overemphasize the role donors play in the current policy calculation,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a nonprofit that works to reduce the influence of money in politics.

“At this point in the crisis, they sent a really important signal that the objectors’ actions were unacceptable … because they voted to overthrow the will of the electorate,” said McGehee.

Facebook told NPR on Monday that it was pausing its political action committee spending for at least the first three months of the year “while we review our policies.”

Microsoft is currently assessing the impact of last week’s events, adding, “The PAC regularly pauses its donations in the first quarter of a new convention. However, further steps will be needed this year to take account of these recent events and to consult with staff. “

Indeed, many companies – at the beginning of the year immediately after an election is over – conduct such a policy spending review anyway.

Also, corporate public campaign spending is much more constrained than spending by super PACs and especially tax-exempt stakeholders who do not disclose their donors. In addition, American politics has a lot of corporate money flowing from individuals, executives and other employees.

Earlier, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup had told reporters that they were suspending all political donations. Airbnb, Comcast and others said they would suspend PAC donations to Republicans who protested the vote in the electoral college. The Popular Information newsletter tracks and adds such company responses Marriott and BlueCross BlueShield on the list.

Similarly, Hallmark of Kansas City, Missouri, Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Roger Marshall of Kansas asked to return $ 7,000 and $ 5,000, respectively, of employee donations made over the past two years, according to The Kansas City Star.

“I think they need to think long and hard about the role their political spending played in preparing this crisis,” said Bruce Freed, director of the Center for Political Accountability.

“The question is – does the stamina have or will it be a movement of the moment?” Said Freed. “What are you doing in six months? … Is this a real revelation on a change in the way companies approach their political spending?”

Last week, Facebook indefinitely suspended President Trump from both its main platform and Instagram. Twitter has permanently disabled Trump’s account.

The online retailer platform Shopify has closed two stores associated with the Trump Organization and Trump campaign. The Board of Directors of the PGA of America has decided to take the PGA Championship from Trump Golf Course in New Jersey next year.

Editor’s note: Comcast, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase are among the financial backers of NPR.

NPR’s Shannon Bond contributed to this report.

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