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After Jan. 6 halt, corporate money starts reaching the GOP again

Remember when several corporations responded to the Jan. 6 attack by halting their political contributions? One notable PAC has shifted its stance.
Image: JetBlue Airways aircrafts are pictured at departure gates at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
JetBlue Airways aircrafts are pictured at departure gates at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.Fred Prouser / Reuters

Remember when several corporations responded to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by halting their political contributions? There's fresh evidence of a post-riot shift in corporate PAC strategies.

JetBlue Airways Corp. is the first company to end a pause in PAC contributions following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and disclose giving to one of the Republican lawmakers objecting to the Electoral College vote count.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) -- who, like most House Republicans, opposed certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election, even after the deadly insurrectionist attack -- received a $1,000 contribution from the airline's corporate political action committee.

According to Bloomberg's report, "No other corporate PAC that announced a pause is believed to have reported a donation directly to a lawmaker who objected to the certification of President Joe Biden's election."

For those who may need a refresher, let's review how we arrived at this point. Within a few days of the Capitol riot, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Marriott International were among the prominent companies that said they would pause political contributions to congressional Republicans who voted to reject President Joe Biden's victory. Many others soon followed -- including Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns MSNBC (my employer), and which said it would suspend contributions "to those elected officials who voted against certification of the electoral college votes."

The shift did not go unnoticed. Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican strategist, told the New Yorker that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in particular, was "scared to death" of corporate America's response to the attack.

By late January, officials in some GOP offices on Capitol Hill weighed "punishments" for companies that halted PAC contributions, including possible bans on lobbyists. In March, CNBC reported that several entities, including the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, were taking their pleas to corporations directly, "encouraging them to remove their restrictions and resume contributing."

Some corporate PACs, including the National Association of Realtors' PAC, halted federal contributions after Jan. 6, and resumed donations in February, but anti-election Republicans have not been among the beneficiaries.

All of which makes JetBlue's support for Nicole Malliotakis that much more notable: it's effectively a crack in the wall.

The airline defended the move yesterday, pointing to the GOP congresswoman's role on the House Transportation Committee as evidence of her "specific relevance to JetBlue's network and business, as well as the aviation industry overall."

Malliotakis also represents Staten Island, which isn't far from JetBlue's corporate headquarters.

Obviously, given the scope of congressional fundraising, it's tempting to look past a single $1,000 check from one corporate PAC to one Republican who voted to reject election results. In the world of campaign financing, especially at the federal level, it's a small drop in an enormous bucket.

But if Bloomberg's report is correct, and this is the first example of a corporate PAC reversing course on its post-riot position on an anti-election lawmaker, other corporations may very well start wondering if they can and should do the same.