Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Corporate political donors rethink - and revise - their political giving

‘An Epiphany Moment’ for Corporate Political Donors May Have Arrived. As companies put their donations to candidates on hold, they should reassess political giving entirely, making the halt permanent. Andrew Ross Sorkin reports at the NY Times.

As companies from Coca-Cola to Amazon to Citigroup appear to be tripping over one another to declare that they are “pausing” or “reassessing” donations to Republicans who sought to overturn the election — and, in some cases, suspending giving to both parties — they might want to look at a company that didn’t say anything.

That company is IBM.

It didn’t need to issue a mea culpa for a simple reason. It doesn’t donate to candidates on either side of the aisle — at all, ever.

IBM is one of only a handful of large companies in the United States that are not involved in direct political giving to candidates. It has no political action committee. Even when it gives money to trade groups, it restricts its money from being funneled to candidates.

It was a policy put in place more than a century ago by Thomas J. Watson, the founding father of the modern IBM.

"We should not use IBM time, money or materials for political purposes,” Mr. Watson’s son, Thomas J. Watson Jr., wrote in an internal memo in 1968, when he was chief executive, reflecting his father’s policy. The company “should not try to function as a political organization in any way,” he wrote.

As other companies pause their donations to candidates via corporate PACs, they should consider making their halt permanent.

The public views these news releases not necessarily as responsible political participation but as evidence — receipts — of a corrupt system. The donations directed by a corporate PAC undermine the credibility of the company and the politician taking it. The money is seen as a bribe for legislation, and the legislation is seen as a favor in return for money.

The companies speaking out in recent days — American Express, Facebook, Marriott and Morgan Stanley, to name a few more — may deserve credit for pulling back from political donations amid accusations that some funded sedition. A genuine example of leadership would be to go even further and declare that they will get out of the business of political donations completely.

More from the NY Times article …

And lots of details about corporate political expenditures in this post by Judd Legum at

After riot, major corporations suspend donations to the Republican Attorneys General Association . Many corporations are reducing or terminating their PAC contributions. But lots more companies making such donations have yet to weigh in.

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