A Democratic Crisis: What happens to PAC Contributions?

In recent weeks, dozens of the country’s best-known companies and trade associations decided to withhold PAC contributions from lawmakers who challenged the Electoral College results in the presidential election.

It’s a powerful public statement from organizations that generally use their political action committees to convey support rather than to punish behavior. But the action of 147 Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying election results just days after rioters tore through the U.S. capitol touched a nerve, and many organizations responded. 

Should your company follow suit? It’s no light question. Using PAC money to send a message will require input from your committee’s leadership and the answer will be different in every organization. To help inform your decision, we turned to GovPredict’s Donor Research tool to provide data that can frame the issue. 

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Major Companies Withheld Funds

Any PAC that decides to withhold funds will be in good company. Through Jan. 12, reporting by Axios, Forbes, The Hill and other new organizations shows that dozens of companies have halted, paused or are reviewing their PAC donations to lawmakers who voted against certification. 

That list includes household names like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Hallmark went so far as to ask two lawmakers to return PAC money. Here are some of the major companies that have addressed the issue: 

Lawmakers Already Lost Millions 

It is axiomatic that each election costs more than the last and that lawmakers have to raise an ever-increasing amount of money. In the 2016 cycle, the average winning House member spent about $1.3 million and the average winning Senate candidate spent 10 times that, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

This cycle, where the total cost in all races was projected to approach $14 billion ($6.6 billion on the presidential race alone), and congressional numbers were expected to increase.     

Under those conditions, no single source of contributions is likely to rise to become a major percentage of a lawmaker’s support. However, lawmakers could lose large amounts of PAC support, which they rely upon. Moreover, corporate PAC money represents more than dollars. It is part of the relationship that members of Congress have with big companies, some of which are major employers in their states and districts. 

We wanted to know how much money the lawmakers who voted against certification stood to lose. To find out, we turned to GovPredict’s Donor Research tool and looked up donations to each of those legislators from corporate PACs. We then pulled out funds from the corporations who have announced that ongoing donations are in doubt.

Corporate PACs gave more than $160 million in the last five years to the legislators who voted against certification. The companies that announced that they are no longer supporting these lawmakers have given nearly $9 million to these lawmakers as of Jan. 13. That means those lawmakers stand to lose about 5 percent of corporate PAC money, in addition to having to justify their actions and repair relationships.

Here are the top corporate donors to the 147 lawmakers who voted against certifying election results:

Lawmakers Who Lost the Most 

The loss of corporate PAC money will affect some legislators more than others. For example, 38 of the 147 legislators received no money from PACs that have withdrawn fundraising through mid January. That means Republican lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Florida will not feel any impact.

The remaining 109 legislators will likely see some reduction in the money they raise from PACs. For Republican Rep. Ben Cline of Virgina, for example, the absence of funds from corporate PACs that have halted contributions represents a reduction of almost 11 percent of his PAC fundraising. 

Here are the lawmakers most likely to lose funds from PACs that have stopped donations:

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