Companies tied to major impacts on U.S. environmental and sustainability goals have donated millions of dollars to Republicans who have questioned the 2020 election results, according to a new analysis.
Energy and chemical producers — led by companies like ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum and energy infrastructure company Williams — donated more than $2 million for election-denying GOP candidates since the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack, The Hill calculated based on data published this week by ProPublica.
Another $1.2 million came from transportation and product delivery companies — those with substantial, if more indirect, impacts on U.S. sustainability goals. The largest donors in this category included the United Parcel Service (UPS), FedEx and General Motors (GM).
Those funds are part of a larger pool of more than $13 million total shelled out by Fortune 500 companies for election-denying candidates since the Capitol attack, ProPublica found.
The report was released the day before President Biden delivered a speech on Capitol Hill accusing Republicans of putting “democracy itself” in jeopardy through campaigns of voter intimidation, political violence and election denial.
Biden in his speech linked election denialism with the recent attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in what appeared to be a kidnapping attempt by a suspect immersed in conspiracy theories.
“We don’t settle our differences in America with a riot, a mob, or a bullet or a hammer. We settle them peacefully at the ballot box,” Biden said Wednesday, alluding to the Pelosi attack.
After scores of Trump supporters breached the Capitol last year, a wave of top U.S. companies — including UPS, Valero Energy, GM and tobacco conglomerate Altria — issued statements committing to cease funding candidates who had voted not to certify Biden’s 2020 victory.
But within months of these commitments, a number of these corporations quietly reversed course.
According to ProPublica, UPS after 139 days began donating to figures who objected to certifying election results, including Reps. Daniel Meuser (R-Pa.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.). Its donations have surpassed $385,000.
GM — a company that has staked its future on the successful pivot to electric vehicles (EVs) — began donating to election objectors within 127 days, ultimately donating $192,500 to candidates like Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio).
And oil giant Valero began donating to election deniers 149 days after its initial commitment, ProPublica found. The company ultimately split $215,000 among candidates like Reps. Garret Graves (R-La.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Several companies have noted their affiliated donations don’t go to one party alone, with an Exxon spokesperson telling the Texas Tribune recently that its PAC is “non-partisan” and noting that the company had congratulated Biden on his election in 2020.
The renewed funding for Republicans acknowledges the reality that the GOP will likely have new power in Congress following the November election, with members in some cases viewed as being more open to the continued long-term expansion of fossil fuels.
As Democrats have passed hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending aimed at pushing the country toward renewable energy, Republicans have rejected such efforts while also pushing back fiercely against climate-friendly and sustainable finance regulation, particularly the investment philosophy known as ESG, for environment, social and governance investing.
In September, McCarthy told right-wing news outlet Breitbart News that ESG is “just wrong,” and accused both the Biden administration and large financial firms like BlackRock of creating an energy crisis.
Republicans, who are favored to win back control of the House and have a chance at winning the Senate in next week’s midterms, have announced plans to use their expected newfound power in the next Congress to roll back Democratic initiatives, including clean energy stimulus spending, financial regulation of climate risk and ESG investing in general.
This is part of a larger campaign by both the GOP itself and by major outside backers who have accused both the Biden administration and large financial firms of driving up gas prices.
In March, the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) accused Biden of a “War on American Energy.”
The group blamed Democratic proposals aimed at fostering renewable energy, rolling back surging methane emissions and lowering pollution from car tailpipes for a rise in oil prices following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and subsequent disruption of energy markets.
Several House Republicans have proposed bills aimed at challenging the ESG movement.
For example, GOP Reps. Rick Allen (Ga.) and Andy Barr (Ky.) in March introduced the Ensuring Sound Guidance (ESG) Act to “protect investors from their returns being diminished because of politically motivated asset managers who prioritize environmental or social goals instead of returns,” according to a statement.
And the INDEX Act from Luetkemeyer and Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) seeks to keep investment advisors like BlackRock from voting on shareholders behalf. In a statement, Luetkemeyer portrayed ESG as “nothing more than a fabricated metric from the far-Left that is now being used as a fear tactic in corporate America.”
But for an increasing number of investors — particularly the large asset managers like BlackRock that Republicans have focused their attacks on — the distinction between profitability and sustainability is a false one because it ignores the substantial financial risks posed by unchecked climate change.
“We believe that companies that better manage their exposure to climate risk and capitalize on opportunities will generate better long term financial outcomes,” BlackRock representatives wrote in an October press campaign.