The Beginning of the End for Corporate Campaign Spending?

The events of January 6th shook our country to its core. Hundreds of rioters stormed the Capitol, endangering the lives of Members of Congress, their staffers, and Capitol Police in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Despite the violence, some Republicans still chose to contest the results when Congress reconvened that evening. This direct attack on American democracy has caused many corporations, organizations, and individuals to reflect on their own impacts on our system. Amazon, AT&T, Facebook, Marriott, Morgan Stanley, Walmart, and numerous other corporations have announced a temporary halt on campaign spending to 147 Republican lawmakers who challenged the Electoral College results.

But what if this could be more? What if this could signal the beginning of the end of America’s corrupt pay-to-play system? An ideal yet unlikely scenario, but hear us out.

After January 6th, buzzwords like “integrity” and “responsibility” are on everyone’s lips, and they’re a major factor behind the temporary mass exodus of corporate campaign money in the past week. It’s also caused some big-money donors to utter Washington’s nasty little secret:

“I would be very reluctant to threaten a legislator with a permanent breach over any single issue,” Lloyd Blankfein, former chief executive of Goldman Sachs, told The New York Times, “recognizing we may need to work together on many other things that will be important to us in the future.”

If these corporations truly want to exhibit integrity and responsibility, they should consider getting out of political spending altogether. This could be a wake-up call to corporations and politicians alike that our democracy is deeply corrupted and in need of a cleanse.

And it’s not just about the Capitol riot. It’s about what the 2020 election taught us about corporate campaign spending. 2020 was the most expensive election year on record, with a whopping $14 billion spent on federal elections. And as the Center for Responsive Politics argues, “The more expensive an election gets, the less PAC contributions matter.” Money from top-spending, corporate-backed super PACs failed to win major elections in Maine, Kentucky, and South Carolina. Big tech corporations like Facebook are facing backlash and antitrust litigation despite its large contributions on both sides of the aisle.

If corporations truly want to put their money where their mouth is (which they should do, given the statements about fairness, justice, and equality they’ve released in the last year), they would learn not to put it into politics. Instead, they should put it into helping the American people, and by extension our democracy, rebuild.