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Corporations halt political donations, with some singling out Republicans

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Some of America's biggest corporate names — from American Express to Facebook — said they are pausing their political donations in the wake of the deadly riot at the Capitol Building. Some of the businesses said they would halt donations specifically to the 147 Republicans who opposed the Electoral College count to certify President-elect Joe Biden's win.

The corporate run for the exits began when Marriott and Blue Cross Blue Shield over the weekend said they would halt donations to the Republicans who opposed the Electoral College count in the wake of the deadly Capitol Building assault by supporters of President Donald Trump. The companies said the Republicans' vote against certification sought to undermine a legitimate election. Citigroup weighed in Sunday with a similar public statement.

By Monday morning, the number of big businesses halting political donations had become a flood. Among them are American Express, Airbnb, AT&T, Comcast, Dow, Google, Facebook, Ford Motors, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard and Microsoft. In some cases, the companies said their decision would be temporary, such as Facebook saying it will pause for at least the first quarter, according to Axios.

These decisions follow condemnations by many businesses and industry groups after the January 6 riot in Washington, D.C., which has left six people dead and resulted in the arrest of dozens involved in the attack. One trade group, the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C., called for Mr. Trump's removal from the Oval Office. 

But the freeze on political donations reflects the widening fallout for Mr. Trump and his allies stemming from the Capitol protest. On Sunday, the PGA of America moved to distance the organization from Mr. Trump when it voted Sunday to take the PGA Championship event away from his New Jersey golf club next year.

The 147 federal lawmakers who voted against certification number eight senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, and 139 House members. 

"We have taken the destructive events at the Capitol to undermine a legitimate and fair election into consideration and will be pausing political giving from our Political Action Committee to those who voted against certification of the election," a Marriott spokesman said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. 

Other companies said they are reviewing their contributions, either as a matter of course or because of the attack on January 6, with some saying they haven't made any decisions.

ExxonMobil, for instance, said in a statement: "Previous contributions to a candidate do not indicate that the ExxonMobil PAC will contribute again in the future. Before giving to any political candidate, the ExxonMobil PAC has a robust process to assess the candidate's platform, prior voting record, and consistency with the company's priorities."

"Undermine our democracy"

Blue Cross Blue Shield said in a statement that it will "suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy." It cited "votes of some members of Congress to subvert the results of November's election by challenging Electoral College results."

Yet none of the companies that have so far announced donation halts are among the top 20 donors to the congressional Republicans who formally objected to the Electoral College count. The top two business group donors are the American Bankers Association (ABA) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR), each of which donated a total of $1.3 million to the 147 lawmakers, according to Open Secrets, which tracks political donations.

In a statement to CBS MoneyWatch, NAR said the trade group "will continue to closely monitor events in Washington in the days leading up to and following Joe Biden's inauguration in order to ensure our political participation" represents its members. The ABA said in a statement that it would be reviewing its political activities "in the coming weeks."

"The troubling events of the last week will certainly be a consideration in those discussions," the group said.

In a statement, American Express said, "Last week's attempts by some congressional members to subvert the presidential election results and disrupt the peaceful transition of power do not align with our American Express Blue Box values; therefore, the AXP PAC will not support them," referring to the American Express Political Action Committee. 

The financial firm said its PAC hadn't given money to any of the senators who objected, while noting that it had previously contributed to 22 of the 139 House members who voted against certifying the election results.

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Citigroup confirmed Sunday that it is pausing all federal political donations for the first three months of 2021. In a memo to employees Friday, Citi's head of global government affairs Candi Wolff said "we want you to be assured that we will not support candidates who do not respect the rule of law."

"We support engaging with our political leaders even when we disagree, and our PAC is an important tool for that engagement," Wolff wrote, adding that the company in 2019 donated $1,000 to the campaign of Senator Josh Hawley, R.-Missouri, who represents a state in which Citi has a lot of employees.

In all, Citi's PAC donated $742,000 to federal candidates in 2019-20 according to OpenSecrets. Of this amount, $413,500 — or about 56% — went to Republicans and the rest to Democrats. Citigroup isn't among the top 20 donors to the lawmakers who objected to certifying the Electoral College results.

Unlike some of the other companies, Citi says it is pausing all federal contributions, including to Democrats. 

Boston Scientific said Sunday it is also suspending donations to lawmakers as the medical device maker reviews its approach to political contributions. The company said it believes in "respecting the integrity of the democratic process, the election outcome and the peaceful transition of power."

—With reporting by the Associated Press.

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