Today is the anniversary of the U.S. Capitol uprising last year. Acts of January 6 had a big influence on corporate political donations, which largely dried up in the aftermath of the insurgency. But over the past year, corporate giving has picked up.
Businesses can make political donations through a company’s political action committee or PAC, Washington told the Conference Board.
“There are approximately 1,500 business PACS in America. And the vast majority of them suspended some or all of their contributions, following the events of January 6, ”he said.
A new Conference Board survey and the National Association of Business Policy Action Committees found that since then, about three-quarters of these businesses have resumed giving.
But, Washington has said they are cautious.
“They really need to tie their corporate political activity to a corporate purpose and a broader social purpose,” he said.
This is because companies are under great pressure to respond to their staff who might not agree with a political donation.
“Their employees pushed the company to speak out in the first place, and politics is one of the key things employees are involved in,” said Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications at Dartmouth.
Argenti said this is one of the reasons why a quarter of companies that suspended corporate giving last year have not resumed giving.
“It’s a big deal, you know it’s not something to just gloss over and say it’s business as usual,” he said.
But companies have other ways to make political contributions. Anna Massoglia of OpenSecrets said companies can donate money to nonprofits and professional associations. They can also donate to so-called “black money groups,” who are not required to disclose their donors.
“With black money groups, you don’t have the level of disclosure, like spending through corporate PACS, or like political contributions, in general,” she said.
Massoglia adds that shareholders have urged companies to avoid this kind of political donation. And it’s not clear whether donations to Dark Money groups have picked up in the past year.
“Because they can choose not to voluntarily disclose this information,” she said.
The Conference Board found that nearly half of companies believe political contributions this year will be even more difficult than in 2021.