Lobbyists Kept Donating to GOP Election Objectors After Companies Cut off PACs

Many Hill lobbyists opted not to follow their employers' PAC policy and donated to the 147 Republican election objectors in Congress.

Lobbyists Kept Donating to GOP Election Objectors After Companies Cut off PACs
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) speaks as fellow Electoral College objectors Reps. Kevin Hern (R-OK), John Joyce (R-PA) and Ted Budd (R-NC) listen on November 2, 2021.

After the Jan. 6 riots last year, scores of companies paused their PAC contributions or pledged to halt donations to the 147 Republican members who voted in support of objections to the Electoral College certification. 

So far this year, 79 major corporations surveyed by the accountability outlet Popular Information have kept the commitments they made after Jan. 6. Overall, corporate PAC donations in 2021 to the 94 House objectors who are running for re-election this year and ran as incumbents last cycle declined by 60% compared with what they received in 2019, the equivalent year for that election cycle.

While many brand-name companies’ stances were covered in the press in the aftermath of the melee, in many cases they have been able to continue currying influence with election objectors in Congress through donations made by their lobbyists and executives. 

Lobbyists for companies that cut off PAC donations to Republican election objectors have continued to donate to the group, and many executives with the companies did not follow the lead of their employers’ PAC policies, according to a Sludge review of Federal Election Commission data from the nonprofit resource Code for Democracy. These types of high-level employees typically provide the bulk of the funding for their companies’ PACs.

Lobbyists are finely strategic in their giving, academic studies have confirmed, seeking out key lawmakers with jurisdiction over their legislative concerns and contributing to ensure special access early in the lawmaking process. If Republicans retake the U.S. House in the midterm elections, even token donations made now to their reelection could smooth the path for lobbying activities next year on behalf of their clients.

In-House Lobbyist Donations to GOP Objectors

Companies that are observing their public pledges to halt PAC donations to the GOP election objectors employ in-house federal lobbyists who donated to objectors in the first three quarters of 2021.

Allstate lobbyist Saat Alety, director of federal affairs and public policy, donated a combined $5,600 to the campaigns of 11 Electoral College objectors, including $1,000 each to Rep. Warren Davidson (Ohio) and Rep. Lance Gooden (Texas), members of the House Committee on Financial Services. Last year, Alety reported lobbying for the insurance company regarding insurance capital standards and H.R.2537, a bill introduced by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) that would bar the inclusion of medical debt on a consumer credit report, among other measures.

Amazon lobbyist Miguel E. Mendoza donated $1,000 to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, and another lobbyist for the company, Matthew Haskins, gave $1,000 to Rep. Mike Rogers (Ala.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Dow Chemical lobbyist Colleen Litkenhaus, an associate director for government affairs, donated $500 to Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.), a Ways and Means Committee member. Dow’s vice president for global affairs, Kevin Kolevar, a former lobbyist for the company, gave $500 to Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy.

Microsoft lobbyist Allison Halataei contributed $1,000 to Rep. Chris Stewart (Utah), a member of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. 

Nike lobbyist Jesse McCollum, the senior director of government & public affairs, based in D.C., donated $250 to Rep. Ben Cline (Va.).

Nicole Daigle, the senior state government affairs manager in the Gulf Coast and Southeast region for chemical giant BASF, donated $500 to Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves. Daigle was formerly a lobbyist for the oil and natural gas group Independent Petroleum Association of America and worked as a communications director for Republicans on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. A few days before her May donation, a senior VP with BASF, Jerold W. Lebol, donated the same amount to the fourth-term Graves, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.

Companies That Paused All PAC Giving

About 43 companies pledged to suspend all PAC donations in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 events, as Popular Information is tracking. A review of FEC data shows that some of these companies’ lobbyists and executives contributed to the Republican election objectors who inspired their companies’ PAC freezes to be put in place.

Law firm Squire Patton Boggs, among the top 10 lobbying spenders on the Hill last year, vowed to cut off its PAC giving. 

  • John Flynn, a principal at the firm whose lobbying clients last year included industry group the Association of American Railroads, donated $500 to Rep. Sam Graves (Mo.), ranking member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. 
  • Former House member Jack Kingston, a principal at the firm whose lobbying clients last year included biopharmaceutical industry group Alliance for Biosecurity, gave $250 to freshman Rep. Diana Harshbarger (Tenn.), a member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection & Innovation. 
  • Senior VP Sam Adcock, a former lobbyist whose clients included defense contractor United Technologies and BAE Systems, donated $3,200 to fourth-term Rep. Trent Kelly (Miss.), a member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee.

ConocoPhillips lobbyist John Dabbar donated last year to four election objectors while the oil major has paused its PAC giving, including $1,500 to Rep. Chris Nehls (Texas). The freshman rep is a member of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Goldman Sachs lobbyist Ryan Jachym donated $1,000 to Rep. Frank Lucas (Okla.), a member of the Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee. Michael Thompson, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, donated $1,000 to election objector Rep. Jake LaTurner (Kan.) and $500 to Cline. 

Capital One lobbyist Nicholas Zupancic, director of federal government affairs, donated $250 to Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (Mo.), the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions of the House Financial Services Committee. 

Energy giant Exelon had pledged to bar PAC donations to the 147 election objectors, but broke its pledge last year by donating $15,000 to six of the Republicans. Jackie Carney, the company’s director of federal government affairs, donated $500 in June to second-term Rep. John Joyce (Penn.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Carney reported lobbying around dozens of bills in the second quarter, with her third quarter activity focused around two bills: the Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act of 2021, and the Zero-Emission Nuclear Power Production Credit Act of 2021.

Outside Lobbyists for PAC-Pausing Companies

Jeffrey Miller, founder and CEO of lobbying firm Miller Strategies, gave over $33,000 to Republican election objectors last year. His lobbying clients in 2021 included Amazon Web Services, Blackstone, CoreCivic, Energy Transfer Partners, Occidental Petroleum, PG&E, PhRMA, and Dow. The top beneficiary of Miller’s donations was fifth-term Rep. Jason Smith (Mo.), a Ways and Means Committee member, followed by freshman Rep. August Pfluger (Texas), and third-term Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems.

Other Hill lobbying firms with executives who donated to the Republican election objectors, slipping around their clients’ PAC giving policies, include the following:

  • Brownstein Hyatt’s policy director Lori Harju lobbied for Marriott, which cut off PAC contributions to the GOP objectors. Harju donated to at least six objectors, including giving $3,400 to recently-retired Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.) and $500 to Rep. Kevin Hern (Okla.). The second-term Hern is a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means and is the Budget and Spending Task Force Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservative members.
  • Cornerstone Government Affairs principal and director James Richards lobbied for Microsoft, which cut off PAC giving to objectors. Richards donated $1,000 each to Rep. Banks and Rep. Richard Hudson (N.C.), sending $500 as well to Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. The fifth-term Rep. Hudson is a member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
  • Van Scoyoc Associates lobbyist Ray Cole, whose clients included Amazon, a company that had cut off the election objectors from its PAC, donated to several GOP objectors, including $2,900 to Rep. Robert Aderholt (Ala.), the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science.

To curb the special access sought by lobbyists, good government experts like those at the Center for American Progress have called for a legislative fix in the form of banning lobbyists from fundraising for politicians—for example, by hosting fundraising events or bundling contributions. Any fundraising solicitations by influence peddlers would count toward the lobbyist’s individual contribution limit of $2,800 per candidate per election under that proposal.

Read more:

Trade Groups Decline to Cut Off GOP Objectors

Major Companies Donate to Republican AG Group Despite Its Role in Jan. 6 Riots

Corporate America Should Immediately Cease All Political Spending, Says Reform Coalition