Donald Trump’s populism is turning off corporate donors


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“GO AWAKENED, GO broken,” intone Republicans tired of socially conscious corporate America. But it is politicians who pay for their own ideological zeal. In 2000 and 2004, corporate political action committees (CAPs) gave them twice as much as they gave to the Democrats. After splitting donations almost evenly between the two parties in 2008 (perhaps thanks to a charismatic newcomer named Barack Obama), in 2012 and 2016 they again favored Republican candidates, by a ratio of nearly two against one. Business leaders also preferred the conservatives. A 2019 article found that between 2000 and 2017 CEOs of companies in the S&P. The 1500 index directed two-thirds of their donations to the right.

On the other hand, during the 2019-2020 electoral cycle, companies CAP donations to Republicans fell by a quarter from four years earlier. One possible explanation is that donors were unhappy with the party's populist abandonment of trade, immigration and international cooperation. After Mr. Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, dozens of companies suspended donations to Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election. According to Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management, more than three-quarters of these companies were still withholding such donations a year later.

image: The Economist

Preliminary numbers suggest it will be another disappointing year for Republican fundraisers. Data from the Federal Election Commission shows that in the first 11 months of this presidential cycle, Republicans received a third less from businesses. CAPs than in 2020 and half as much as in 2016 (see graph). Comcast, a cable operator, and Northrop Grumman, a weapons manufacturer, have cut their checks by a third since 2020. ExxonMobil, an oil giant, has cut its donations in half. The biggest spending trade groups, such as the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the National Association of Realtors, gave to Republicans less than four years ago.

Unspent money might not come back to Democrats. According to End Citizens United, an advocacy group, 73 members of Congress, mostly Democrats, have opted out of the corporations. CAPs entirely, compared to 56 five years ago. America Inc is always looking for friends in Washington. In the post-Trump era, she finds herself alone.

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