After a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, many businesses and trade groups condemned the attack and pledged to review and shift their approach to political giving, including by halting donations to candidates who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election.
Three years later, the day still looms large in politics. President Biden has framed the 2024 presidential election as a battle for American democracy, suggesting in a speech on Friday that it will test whether democracy is still a “sacred cause.” The same day, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from former Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, of a Colorado court decision removing him from the state’s Republican primary ballot because of his actions surrounding the riot.
But the business community has not exerted the huge financial pressure on election-denying candidates and groups that the initial flood of condemnations and pledges in 2021 may have suggested, according to new data.
Corporate political action committees still give millions to election objectors. Hundreds of business and trade association PACs contributed over $108 million to campaigns and committees linked to members of Congress who insisted that the election had been stolen from Trump, according an analysis of Federal Election Commission data from Jan. 6, 2021, through September by Open Secrets, a campaign finance research nonprofit. “Companies pledged to pull back, but we have not seen that play out,” Open Secrets’ investigations manager, Anna Massoglia, told DealBook.
The political watchdog Accountable.US found that overall donations from Fortune 500 companies and about 700 trade associations to election objectors in Congress decreased only about 10 percent — or around $3.7 million — in the 2022 election cycle compared with 2020. And more than 250 companies and industry groups increased donations to those lawmakers after they tried to undermine the election.
The corporate PAC numbers show what the companies are openly disclosing — so although they do not reveal the whole donation picture, they are meaningful, Massoglia said. “Companies also route funds through trade associations, super PACs and even dark money groups that can ultimately be used to benefit election deniers,” she said. Many companies also donate to state-level efforts.
Some companies that have resumed giving to various groups that tried to undermine the 2020 presidential election have defended the move by saying they give on a bipartisan basis. “Support for these organizations does not represent an endorsement for all issues that the organization supports,” General Motors said in 2021 when it gave to the Republican State Leadership Committee after having signed a statement objecting to voting rights restrictions.
Money is not the only political tool available to businesses. “Some might have thought Jan. 6 was a one-off, but it’s an ongoing reckoning,” said Jen Stark, co-director of the Center for Business and Social Justice, which works on mobilizing the private sector to engage in social and policy issues. She recommends that companies demonstrate that civic engagement, as well as election and poll work, is important. For example, companies could make it easy for employees to get involved by giving them information and time to participate.
The nonprofit Leadership Now has worked with companies on initiatives at the state and federal level, including filing amicus briefs, lobbying for voting rights legislation and supporting reforms to strengthen the election process. Daniella Ballou-Aares, the group’s founder and C.E.O., said businesses should be worried about the potential for violence and social unrest ahead. “The risk postelection suggests businesses should be proactive,” she said.
Paul Tagliabue, a lawyer and former N.F.L. commissioner who has been working with Leadership Now and other groups to involve business leaders in election efforts, said he tried not to be too prescriptive, but he laid out the formula he shares: “Educate, empower and engage.” — Ephrat Livni
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
More jobs were created last month than expected. The latest jobs report published yesterday revealed that 216,000 jobs were created in December, far surpassing economists’ forecasts. The data also revealed that wages were still climbing, potentially complicating the Federal Reserve’s decision-making on when to cut interest rates.
The Food and Drug Administration approved mass drug imports from Canada for the first time. The regulator allowed Florida to buy millions of dollars of medicines at far lower prices than the state would have to pay in the United States. The decision upends a policy that critics say kept drug prices high and overrides long-held objections from the pharmaceutical industry.
Claudine Gay resigned as Harvard president. The scholar faced intense pressure from some donors and politicians over her response to antisemitism on campus after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and plagiarism allegations. The controversy has raised wider questions about the role of diversity, equity and inclusion programs in business and the role of donors in determining university policy.
Early Mickey Mouse and thousands of other copyrighted works entered the public domain. The character that starred in “Steamboat Willie” can now appear in non-Disney works after the copyright expired on Jan. 1. Some novel projects have already been announced: two horror movies and a video game.
By the numbers: The Red Sea attacks ripple through the global economy
As Iranian-backed Houthi rebels continue to attack commercial ships passing through the Red Sea, some of the world’s largest logistics companies have stopped using the crucial transit route.
The attacks have already reverberated throughout the global supply chain — and have the potential to cause more disruptions and price increases. Here are some of the big numbers behind the disruption:
Shipments are being rerouted at a high cost. In normal times, about 12 percent of global trade goes through the Suez Canal. The number of transits through the canal over the 10 days that ended on Tuesday were down 28 percent from a year earlier, according to the International Monetary Fund’s PortWatch platform. Avoiding the Suez Canal requires rerouting around the southern tip of Africa, which adds about two weeks to each leg of the trip and about $1 million in fuel costs for every round trip between Asia and Europe.
Shipping prices have risen. The cost of shipping a container from Asia to Northern Europe has increased 173 percent since just before the attacks began after the start of the war in Gaza, according to the shipping platform Freightos. Prices from Asia to the Mediterranean have more than doubled. The cost to insure ships that pass through the Red Sea has also jumped, to about 0.5 percent of the value of a ship’s hull, a steep increase from 0.1 to 0.2 percent last month, according to Bloomberg.
But oil prices have remained steady. Shipments of oil and refined products like diesel and gasoline through the Suez Canal dropped about 40 percent in December compared with October, one analyst told The New York Times. This hasn’t yet translated to major price spikes, thanks to a combination of factors that include easing demand for oil as well as high oil and gas inventories. The price of Brent crude is about $79 a barrel, slightly lower than before the attacks increased.
The Red Sea attacks aren’t the only threat to supply chains. The Panama Canal, through which about 5 percent of global trade passes, has restricted the number of vessels that can use it, because of severe drought. Continuing disruptions could create a spike in shipping costs that is passed on to consumers just as inflation has started to ease.
On Our Radar: The ‘Succession’ auction
“Succession,” the hit HBO drama about the fictional media mogul Logan Roy, his dysfunctional family and the fight to take over his company, ended in 2023. Now, the family’s belongings are available to the highest bidder. Hundreds of props, costumes and furnishings used in the series will be auctioned by Heritage Auctions next Saturday. The items include Kendall Roy’s Forbes cover (“The Heir With the Flair”); Tom Wambsgans’s Waystar ID card; “boar, on the floor” prop sausages; Shiv Roy’s hair clip; Logan Roy funeral pamphlets; and lots and lots of suits. Even if you aren’t willing to shell out, say, at least $2,700 to win Greg Hirsch’s dog mascot costume, browsing the lot is good fun.
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