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Did corporate PACs really halt support for GOP's election opponents?

Most corporate PACs that vowed to curtail support for anti-election Republicans followed through on their commitments -- but not all.

Within a few days of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a handful of major corporations said they would pause political contributions to congressional Republicans who voted to reject President Joe Biden's victory. As we've discussed, 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 insurrectionist riot.

But did corporations follow through on their commitments? NBC News noted yesterday that, by and large, most did exactly what they said they'd do.

The majority of Republicans who objected to the Electoral College certification saw a decrease in political action committee donations in the first quarter of 2021 when compared to the first quarter of 2019 (only counting those who were in Congress during both eras). And most of the organizations that spoke out in the wake of the attack didn't donate to these members.

"There was a lot of cynicism around the announcements when they first were made," Judd Legum said this week. "[But] it wasn't just empty statements. These [Federal Election Commission] filings look different than they would have looked had they not made those statements."

I remain interested, however, in those corporations that quietly backed off their post-riot rhetoric. We recently discussed Jet Blue, for example, which "paused" its support for anti-election Republicans in January, but which ended up writing a check for 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.

The airline wasn't entirely alone on this front. The L.A. Times reported this week:

New fundraising disclosures filed Friday show ... that several businesses that made the pledge, including Cigna, AT&T and Intel, gave at least $75,000 to 37 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying the election results and six of their associated political action committees. These companies also gave $45,000 to GOP campaign arms for the Senate — run by an anti-certification senator — and the House, where two-thirds of the Republican caucus opposed recognizing the election results.

Looking ahead, I'm curious about two things. The first is whether the companies that halted their support for anti-election Republicans will continue to cut these members off, or whether they'll continue to limit contributions to pro-election lawmakers. A quarterly "pause" is one thing, but it'll be little more than a symbolic gesture if many of these same corporate PACs make up for lost time with renewed donations to election opponents in the coming months and years.

The second, related question is whether corporations that honored their earlier commitments will see others doing the opposite, facing little blowback, and feel an incentive to start writing checks anew.

We'll know for sure when filings from the second quarter come out in a few months.

Postscript: As is always the case dealing with campaign-finance reports, there are nuances and details that create a complex picture. It's worth checking out the full L.A. Times report to get a more complete picture.

With AT&T, for example, the company's employee PACs "did not donate to any individual member of Congress who sought to overturn the election results. They did donate to multi-candidate PACs, including $5,000 to one chaired by objector Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, but said they received assurances that the money would not be used to support the campaigns of objectors, spokesman Michael Balmoris said."